It was a tough old choice judging by the number of brilliant African players that have graced the English game over the years, but here’s a top 5 countdown
5) Kolo Touré (Arsenal, Manchester City and Liverpool)
Having played more Premier League games (253) than any other African player, Kolo Touré has indisputably been one of the most prominent African players in English football. The Ivorian defender began his career in England at Arsenal where he was part of the famous Invincibles side that won the Premier League and remained unbeaten in the 2003/04 season, before moving on to Manchester City and later on to Anfield to play for Liverpool.
Touré was an athletic and solid defender, who would occasionally get the urge to burst forward with the ball and test the goalkeeper with a long-range effort. Besides his footballing abilities, Touré is widely regarded as one of the good guys of the game.
4) Jay-Jay Okocha (Bolton Wanderers and Hull City)
He might not have the trophy cabinet to match it, but Nigerian footballer Jay-Jay Okocha was one of the most sensational players of his generation. His technique, creativity and dribbling skills were a joy to watch and at Bolton Wanderers, and the fans were quick to acknowledge Okocha’s talent, printing shirts with the inscription “Jay-Jay – so good they named him twice”.
Okocha played for two clubs in England, Hull City (2007/08) and Bolton Wanderers (2002-2006). It was at Bolton where the Nigerian really impressed as he helped the club survive relegation in his debut season and led them to a cup final the following year. During his time playing for Bolton, Okocha was crowned African Footballer of the Year twice, emphasizing how well he did at the Reebok Stadium.
3) Michael Essien (Chelsea)
A vital part of one of the most successful sides in recent Premier League history, Michael Essien has been one of Africa’s finest exports. The Ghanaian international was signed up by Chelsea in the summer of 2005 from Lyon and it proved to be a golden deal for José Mourinho’s side. The Bison, as he was nicknamed, took the Premier League by storm with his box-to-box playing style and powerful, tough-tackling character.
Essien won two Premier League titles, four FA Cup’s and one Champions League during his stay at Stamford Bridge and was also named African Footballer of the Year in 2006 for his high-energy and high-quality displays for the Blues.
2) Didier Drogba (Chelsea)
Powerful, quick and deadly in front of goal, Didier Drogba was a monster in an era where top center forwards rarely got 25+ goals a season. The Ivorian striker needed a little bit of time to acclimatize to the Premier League but when he settled in, he was unstoppable. Drogba was by no means a stat padder but instead delivered when his club needed him the most.
That night in Munich, where Drogba single-handedly won Chelsea their first Champions League is a fine example of it. A statistic which perhaps best sums up Drogba’s big-game mentality is that he has scored ten goals in ten finals, leading Chelsea to ten trophies. Amen.
1) Yaya Touré (Manchester City)
Few midfielders have looked so dominant as Yaya Touré for Manchester City in the Premier League over the last decade. Coming over from Barcelona, Touré was expected to impress but it is fair to say that he has even exceeded some people’s wildest dreams. His excellent passing range, extraordinary vision and impressive physical ability simply make Yaya the most complete central midfielder the Premier League has ever laid eyes on.
His 20-goal campaign in 2013/14 and his crucial goals in 2011/12 won Manchester City two Premier League titles, proving his priceless importance to The Citizens. Next to winning prizes with City, Touré also managed to pick up four consecutive African Footballer of the Year awards between 2011 and 2014, equalling record holders Samuel Eto’o and Abedi Pele.