Top 10 Africans in Premier League history

English Premier League

Since the Premier League's inception in 1992, a plethora of the greatest footballers from the African continent have entertained fans globally on English soil - leaving a permanent mark in the history books since former Mamelodi Sundowns attacker Peter Ndlovu made his debut for Coventry 25 years ago.

10. Lucas Radebe

After joining Leeds United from Kaizer Chiefs in 1994, the former Bafana Bafana captain went on to feature 197 times in the English top-flight and endeared himself to the Elland Road faithful as the 'Chief' of the club.

A physically imposing defender known for his acrobatic style of play, Radebe captained The Whites to a couple of fourth-place finishes and to the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League in the 2000/01 season.

Radebe earned a cult-hero status after rejecting the advances of European giants’ AC Milan and Manchester United before knee injuries curtailed his career in his early thirties.

9. Yakubu

Yakubu didn't represent one of the elite Premier League clubs, but his influence on the division was arguably more telling within his 252 appearances for Portsmouth, Middlesbrough, Everton and Blackburn Rovers.

A robust, powerful and clinical striker known for the big occasion, the 'Yak' scored 95 goals and registered 16 assists over eight years in the top-flight.

8. Jay-Jay Okocha 

The man so good they named him twice was the overused cliché best describing the ridiculous talent the Nigeria international had at his disposal.

The technically gifted Okocha dazzled Premier League crowds in his 124 appearances for Bolton Wanderers between 2002 and 2006.

A surprise signing from Sam Allardyce at the Trotters, the most expensive African transfer at the time, joined on a free transfer upon the expiry of his contract with Paris Saint-Germain.

The playmaker went on to establish himself as a key member of The Wanderers squad, that went from relegation favourites to UEFA Cup participants during his memorable stint.

7. Kanu

The third Nigerian on the list and an iconic figure in Premier League history, the lanky striker endeared himself to Arsenal, West Bromwich Albion and Portsmouth fans over 12 seasons in the elite division.

Two League titles and three FA Cups (One with Pompey) and a member of the Gunners Invincibles squad in 2003/04 season, Kanu was best known for his awkward, yet elegant style of play as an unorthodox target-man.

6. Emmanuel Adebayor

A highly controversial figure, but one of the most prolific strikers to ply his trade for a decade in England.

The Togo international, 34, scored 97 goals and registered 44 assists for Arsenal, Manchester City and Tottenham but for all his controversy (like running a full length of the pitch to celebrate in front of his former supporters) it yielded no trophies.

But the memory of Adebayor will forever be ingrained in Premier League history, even if one of his former clubs branded him as a 'mercenary'.

5. Kolo Toure

When Steven Gerrard's infamous slip cost Liverpool the league title in 2013/14, it not only shattered the hearts of all Reds fans but it ended the chance for the Ivory Coast legend to become the first player to win the Premier League with three different teams.

Toure arrived at Arsenal in January 2002 as an energetic defender with limited technical ability but manager Arsene Wenger gambled on the soft-spoken defender after he allegedly clattered Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp and Wenger himself in a training session during his trial.

Nonetheless, another member of the 'Invincibles' squad went on to enjoy a distinguished career, racking up 354 appearances for the Gunners, Manchester City and the Merseysiders.

4. Riyad Mahrez

Still fresh in the memory of modern-day Premier League supporters, the slender left-footed winger joined Leicester City for £400k (R6.6m) in 2014 and went on to lead the relegation favourites to a historic Premier League title.

His 18 goals and 10 assists in that memorable season earned him the 2015/16 PFA Player of the Year, becoming the first and only African Player to win the prestigious award.

3. Michael Essien

The 'Bison' was the nickname the Ghanaian midfielder earned during his time with Chelsea, due to his dominating presence as a box-to-box midfielder.

Essien stood out as one of the best midfielders in the league upon joining the Blues in 2005 from Lyon for a reported £34m (R560m) - due to his impressive ball carrying skills, odd screamer and ability to allow the likes of Frank Lampard thrive in more advanced positions on the pitch.

The 2006 BBC African Footballer of the Year won two Premier League titles, four FA Cups, the League Cup and the UEFA Champions League before following Jose Mourinho to Real Madrid in 2012.

2. Yaya Touré

He's still on the books of Manchester City but at the age of 34, Yaya currently plays a peripheral role at the impressive Citizens. But his influence at the Etihad since arriving from FC Barcelona puts him in second-place on this list.

The 2013/14 season will forever be known as one of the greatest individual displays from a Premier League footballer as Toure became only the second midfielder to ever score 20 goals in a single campaign.

A lanky midfielder with incredible technical ability, stamina for marauding runs, skills to glide past his markers, vision to make defence-splitting passes, long-range shooting ability, a free-kick specialist - the Ivorian had it all in his prime.

Toure will earn a heroes send-off when he eventually departs from the Citizens as the player who played a key role in two Premier League titles, an FA Cup and two League Cups.

1. Didier Drogba

The benchmark for African footballers, former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba who recently announced his decision to retire from professional football at the age of 40 remains one of the most influential forwards in Premier League history.

As the top-scoring African with 104 goals and 63 assists in 245 league appearances, the all-time Ivory Coast record goalscorer earned himself a reputation as one of the complete strikers to ever play the game.

His brute strength, first touch and eye for goal made him almost unplayable at times but it was his big match temperament that puts him head and shoulders above any other African star on this list.

Fourteen major titles with the Blues, the UEFA Champions League and four Premier League medals over nine seasons, earns Drogba the title of the greatest ever African footballer in the modern Premier League era.

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