Ivorian great Didier Drogba hanged his boots last month, bringing to an end an illustrious 20-year career filled with many highs and a few lows. Among the highs was Droga’s goal-scoring exploits that made him the best African striker to feature in the English Premier League. But who else joins him on the list? Alfayo Onyango explains.
1. Didier Drogba (Ivory Coast)
Arguably Africa’s most successful player in the EPL, Drogba enhanced his status as a Chelsea legend when he led the Blues to four league title in two spells. The Ivorian won the EPL Golden Boot Award on two occasions (2006-07 and 2009-10) after scoring 20 and 29 goals respectively while also claiming four FA Cups and three League Cups.
Having signed for Chelsea from Marseille in 2004, he played for them until 2012 when he left for Chinese side Shanghai Shenhua, just after leading them to Champions League glory. After stints in China and Turkey, he returned for his Chelsea swan song in 2014-15 and won his fourth league title. Drogba played 254 EPL games and scored 104 goals, the most by an African in England’s top flight.
2. Emmanuel Adebayor (Togo)
The controversial Togolese striker played for Arsenal, Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Crystal Palace between 2006-2016 with a loan spell at Real Madrid (2011) in between. He was a hit mostly at Arsenal where he was top scorer in the 2007-08 season with 24 goals before a controversial move to Manchester City in 2009, leaving after scoring 46 times in 104 games.
He played 34 and scored 15 for City while he found the back of the net 35 times for Spurs in 93 matches. Adebayor played 12 games for Palace while scoring once for a tally 97 goals in 242 EPL appearances.
3. Yakubu Aiyegbeni (Nigeria)
There have been successful Nigerians in the EPL over the years such as Jay Jay Okocha, Nwankwo Kanu and recently Odion Ighalo but none has beaten the goal-scoring exploits of Yakubu Aiyegbeni to date. Only five less of a century of EPL goals, the Nigerian had successful and consistent stints at Blackburn Rovers, Middlesbrough, Everton and Portsmouth.
4. Yaya Toure (Ivory Coast)
The second most successful African in EPL behind compatriot Didier Drogba, Yaya Toure formed the core of the Manchester City team that ended a 44-year wait for a league title in 2012.
That was after an FA Cup victory the year before and Toure was instrumental again as City claimed a second title in three years in 2014. A box-to-box midfielder, he terrorised defenders in the 2013-14 season, scoring 20 goals and he would win a third title in his final season at City in 2018, ending a seven-year spell that yielded 62 goals in 230 league appearances.
5. Nwankwo Kanu (Nigeria)
One of the best and most decorated African footballers of all time, Kanu won the title twice with Arsenal between 1999 and 2004. The 2002 title came first before he formed part of the Arsenal ‘invincibles’ of 2004 that won the EPL crown unbeaten. He had many iconic moments such as his 1999-2000 hat-trick against Chelsea and he also went on to play for West Brom and Portsmouth. He netted 54 times in his time in England.
6. Efan Ekoku (Nigeria)
Now a revered football commentator, the former Norwich and Wimbledon striker is remembered for great things such as being the first African player to score more than three goals in an EPL game when the former beat Everton 5-0 at Goodison Park.
Back then, Norwich were competing with Manchester United for Premier League glory and the English-born Nigerian was a key figure. He played in EPL for eight seasons and scored 52 goals before he left for pastures new in Switzerland.
7. Shola Ameobi (Nigeria)
Currently playing for Nottingham County, the Nigerian striker has had an injury-plagued career but made 298 appearances in the EPL, mostly for Newcastle United whom he played for from 2000 to 2014 before Crystal Palace came calling. He scored 44 goals and provided 20 assists, all while at Newcastle, as he never found the back of the net in four games with Palace.
8. Frederic Kanoute (Mali)
The talismanic striker, who won the 2007 African Player of the Year Award spent seven years in England playing for London clubs West Ham United and Tottenham Hotspur between 2000-2006. Within that period, he scored 44 goals, 29 for West Ham in 84 appearances and 15 for Spurs in 60 games before bowing out to join Spanish side Sevilla after losing his place to Robbie Keane and Jermaine Defoe.
9. Demba Ba (Senegal)
Ba set the bar high when he was voted by EPL managers as the signing of the 2011-12 season while playing for Newcastle. That was after he managed 16 league goals despite being absent for three weeks due to his participation in the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations.
He gave then Arsenal hitman Robin van Persie a run for his money in the race for Golden Boot Award. He also featured for West Ham and Chelsea in his three-year spell in England, managing 43 goals.
10. Mohamed Salah (Egypt)
The man of the moment, Salah is Africa’s version of Leo Messi given his goal-scoring exploits for Liverpool last season and this campaign. He became the second African player to win the EPL Golden Boot when he netted 32 last season and has already hit the ground running this campaign with seven from 14 games.
He won the EPL title under Jose Mourinho in 2014-15 after making just three appearances but is now a Liverpool regular and among the 10 best players in the world.