From Jay-Jay Okocha to George Weah, the continent of Africa has produced some of the best and most entertaining footballers in history. Dazzling football fans worldwide with audacious skills and fabulous goals, African players are making a huge impact in the top European leagues. Here are five stand-out Africans playing in Europe today.
5. Kalidou Koulibaly.
Playing for Napoli in Serie A, Kalidou Koulibaly is a rock of a defender and is widely considered to be one of the most effective center-backs in the world. Koulibaly began his professional club career with French team Metz in 2010 and made 41 appearances before moving to Belgian club Genk in 2012 where he won the Belgian Cup.
After impressing in his 46 appearances for Genk, he joined Italian giants Napoli for £6.5 million in the 2014 summer window. During his Napoli career, he has made 141 appearances as well as becoming further accustomed to winning silverware. He won the Supercoppa Italiana in his first season and has been named in the Serie A Team of the Year in 3 consecutive years since his move to Napoli.
Koulibaly is excellent in the air, both in defending his own box and threatening with set pieces. The defender recently signed a new lucrative five-year deal amid interest from many of the top clubs around Europe. Barcelona, Chelsea and Manchester are reported admirers of the 27-year-old, with reports constantly linking him with a move away from the San Paolo Stadium. Don’t be surprised to see him surpass Virgil Van Dyk as the world’s most expensive defender, come summer 2019.
4. Riyad Mahrez
A relative unknown before becoming one of the major stars of Leicester’s sensational 2015/2016 Premier League triumph, Algerian Riyad Mahrez has established himself as one of the most dangerous and skillful players in the Premier League.
Such was the quality of performances in a Leicester shirt that Manchester City were happy to pay a club-record £60m to secure his services in the summer of 2018. Pep Guardiola rates the winger highly, having pursued Mahrez for at least 6 months before to his eventual move to the Citizens.
Mahrez started his professional career in France with Quimper in 2009 before moving to fellow French side Le Havre. In 2014 he moved to Leicester, then playing in the Championship, he scored 3 goals as they were promoted to the Premier League.
It was during the 2015/16 campaign that Mahrez, with a unique blend of skill and creativity, scored 17 goals and helped the Foxes win a historic Premier League title before moving to Manchester City. Competing with players like Bernardo Silva, Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane for a place in the City line up, Mahrez has perhaps not put in the same level of performances as he did with Leicester. Nevertheless, the Algerian will be hoping he can add more silverware to his collection with the Manchester side.
3. Sadio Mané
As part of Liverpool’s lethal front three, Sadio Mané has been a sensation for Jurgen Klopp’s side. The second Senegalese international to feature on this list, Sane began his career in the French Ligue 2 with Metz. He then made the move Red Bull Salzburg in 2012.
Winning the Austrian title in the 2013-14 season, his stock began to rise to the point where Premiership side Southampton came knocking. Two very decent seasons with the Saints, scoring 21 goals in 63 Premiership games, earned him a move to English giants Liverpool when the Merseyside outfit paid up to £39 million to acquire the Senegalese speedster.
Under Klopp and his brand of gegenpressing, Mané has been phenomenal for the Reds. Providing pace in attack and a tireless engine, he, along with Salah and Firmino, terrify most defences. Mané scored in the 2018 Champions League Final and in doing so, became the first Senegalese player to score in the final of the competition.
2. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Incredibly quick and deadly in front of goal, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is one of the best strikers playing today. After failing to make much of an impact in his time as a Milan player, the Gabonese forward signed for St. Etienne in 2011 and went onto score an impressive 35 goals in 73 appearances.
A successful move to the Bundesliga with Borussia Dortmund followed, where he scored 141 goals in 213 games for the German giants. This convinced Arsenal to pay a club record £56 million to bring him to the Emirates Stadium.
A lethal finisher inside the penalty box, Aubameyang has outstanding pace and thrives playing on the shoulder of the last man. His goalscoring record for Arsenal has remained impressive, scoring 28 goals in 44 appearances for the Gunners so far.
1. Mohamed Salah
Egyptian forward Mohamed Salah was simply sensational for Liverpool in the 2017/18 season. Breaking a number of records along the way, Salah’s performances were magical and had fans and players both agreeing that he is one of the world’s best players.
He broke the record for goals in a 38-game Premier League season when he scored on the final day against Brighton to score his 32nd goal and cap off a fairytale season. Not only has Salah become a Liverpool icon, but he is also a legend in his home country. He scored both goals in the decisive 2–1 victory over Congo, one of which was a penalty in the last minute to help the Pharaohs reach their first World Cup finals since 1990.
Injured in the 2018 Champions League against Real Madrid, Liverpool fans can only think what might have been if their talisman had remained on the pitch for the entirety of the game.