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The top 10 best African footballers to play in the Premier League

With many Premier League stars currently representing their countries at the Africa Cup of Nations 2022, here’s a list of the 10 best African footballers who have played in the Premier League.

The Africa Cup of Nations 2022 kicked off yesterday, as hosts Cameroon started off their campaign by beating Burkina Faso 2-1, courtesy of a Vincent Aboubakar brace.

Premier League stars such as Bertrand Traore, Edouard Mendy and Frank Onyeka are among the players showcasing their talent at the tournament.

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Here’s 10 of the best African footballers to play in the Premier League.

10) Lauren

A name maybe some of the younger fans may not know, Lauren was a solid player for Arsenal, and played 47 games in all competitions for the club during the Gunners’ 2003/2004 invincible season. Lauren signed for Arsene Wenger’s side from Levante, costing £7.2 million.

He departed England with a great CV, having won two Premier League titles and three FA Cups, one of which was with Portsmouth in 2008.

9) Emmanuel Adebayor

Adebayor has had a very different career, shall we say. He arrived at Arsenal from Monaco in 2006, and his best season came in the 2007/2008 season, where he scored 30 goals in all competitions.

Adebayor was a very unique striker - he was tall, but also rapid, and had great athleticism.

A controversial moment came against Arsenal, his former club. At this point, he was at Manchester City, and after he scored a great header from a Shaun Wright-Phillips cross, he ran the length of the pitch, doing a knee slide in front of the travelling Arsenal fans, which has definitely tarnished his reputation with some.

After his spell with City, he joined Real Madrid on loan, signed permanently with Spurs and Crystal Palace before plying his trade abroad.

8) Jay-Jay Okocha

‘So good they named him twice’ is synonymous with Okocha. He traded the glitz and glam of Paris for Bolton, and signed on a free for Sam Allardyce’s Wanderers in 2002.

He spent four years with the club, and his signing started off the journey of their golden era.

In a team with Ivan Campo and Youri Djorkaeff, Okocha ensured Bolton moved clear of relegation candidates and helped the club finish in the top eight for four successive seasons.

One of the most skillful players the league has every seen, Okocha fits easily into this list.

7) Nwankwo Kanu

Again, someone from the early ‘00s, but Kanu enjoyed a great legacy in England.

Already the finished article when he moved to north London, Kanu had enjoyed a good spell in the Netherlands where he won three success Eredivisie titles and the 1995 Champions League. Kanu moved to Arsenal in 1999, off the back of a torrid time in Italy with Inter Milan.

The Nigerian played 197 times for the Gunners, winning two Premier League titles and two FA Cups, with perhaps his most iconic moment coming for Arsenal was his 15-minute hat-trick at Stamford Bridge, with one of the goals coming from an outrageous angle.

6) Riyad Mahrez

Mahrez was a key component of one of football’s most beautiful story, winning the PFA Player of the Season as Leicester won the 2015/2016 Premier League title after starting the campaign off at odds of 5000/1.

He became the first Algerian to win the Premier League and scored 17 goals in 37 appearances that season.

Since then, he left for the riches of Manchester City, and has built a reputation of one the most silky, unpredictable wingers in the league, with a sublime first touch.

That said, Mahrez is known more for his technical ability, and has become a key component of Pep Guardiola’s dynasty in Manchester.

5) Sadio Mane

Despite being below-par this season, Mane is still an exceptional talent.

He joined Southampton in 2014, and enjoyed two seasons on the south coast, scoring the Premier League’s quickest ever hat-trick.

He joined Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool and has so far won the Champions League and Premier League, forming one of the most iconic trios the league has ever seen alongside Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah.

4) Michael Essien

Taking on the mantle from Claude Makelele was always going to be tough, but Essien definitely was more than sufficient enough.

He was the first African to be named Chelsea’s Player of the Year, and won their goal of the year award twice in three seasons.

Perhaps his most iconic moment for the Blues came against Arsenal: Chelsea were chasing the game, trying to preserve their long-running unbeaten record at home - which is still a record to this day - when Essien stepped up from 30-35 yards out. and with outside of his boot sent the ball flying in to the top corner.

Sadly, recurring injuries cut his time in England short, but, he still won two Premier Leagues, four FA Cups, and the Champions League in nine seasons.

3) Mohamed Salah

Salah left Chelsea with a flop status, but reinvented himself with Fiorentina and Roma before returning to England with Liverpool.

Since joining them in 2017, he’s become the highest scoring African in the Premier League, become the first player in the Premier League to score a hat-trick and Old Trafford and also won PFA POTY, the Premier League and Champions League.

2) Yaya Toure

Toure was quite simply the perfect, ultimate midfielder. His 2013/2014 season will go down in history as Toure scored 24 times en route to a Premier League title.

He helped Manchester City to win the FA Cup and won his third Premier League trophy in 2018.

It’s unlikely we will ever seen a midfielder like Toure again, racking up goal tallies that any striker would be chuffed with, and also defending like a warrior, the best all-rounder.

1) Didier Drogba

Drogba initially struggled to adapt to the league after his move to Chelsea from Marseille, but left the club as their best ever striker.

Drogba scored 157 goals in 341 appearances for Chelsea, and was part of that iconic side that featured Ricardo Carvalho, Frank Lampard and John Terry as Drogba helped the West London side win back-to-back Premier League trophies in 2004/2005 and 2005/2006.

He won four Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups and of course his best Chelsea moment came in 2012, where, trailing Bayern Munich in their own ground in the Champions League final. Drogba equalised for the Blues late on, before scoring the decisive penalty to land Chelsea the Champions League trophy.