Africa is a pretty big place, which means when you’re writing about the nine best African soccer players of all time, you’ve got quite a list to choose from. What that means for us is that we get to choose the best players from each country on this stunning continent, making an incredible list to choose from.
The best of the best from a continent that’s produced quality players for over a generation, so you’ll not be surprised to see some of the greatest players ever to play soccer on our list.
Players from Cameroon, Egypt, Senegal, the Ivory Coast, and Liberia all have their unique stories and history, so let’s get to it; Africa’s a big place to cover.
9. Roger Milla (Cameroon)Embed from Getty Images
- Position: Centre-Forward
A true great of African soccer history, Roger Milla was a trailblazer for Cameroon and African soccer players as a whole. Milla led Cameroon to the quarter-finals of a World Cup, the first time a team from the continent of Africa had ever done so.
Milla stands out not only as a soccer player but as a symbol of how African soccer nations were improving to the stage where they had to be taken seriously.
At 38 years of age, Milla played in yet another World Cup, scoring an impressive four goals, becoming the oldest player to score in a World Cup finals.
As if that wasn’t impressive enough, Milla returned four years later. At 42, an age when most players had been retired for several years, Milla scored in his final World Cup against Russia.
Domestically, Milla played most of his club soccer in France, where he scored a remarkable 405 league goals in 666 league appearances. A standard-bearer for African players, it’s often easy to forget just how good Roger Milla was as a player.
World Cups aside, his goalscoring record was superb, and his contribution to African soccer is unquestionable.
8. Kolo Toure (Ivory Coast)
- Position: Centre-Back
Ivory Coast legend Kolo Toure played for some of the biggest clubs in the Premier League for over 16 years; Arsenal, Manchester City, and Liverpool all benefited from the central defender.
After joining Arsenal in 2002, Toure was quickly moved into central defense to partner with Sol Campbell, forming a formidable partnership with the England defender.
Tall, quick, and full of energy, Toure became one of the best defenders in the Premier League and one of the most successful players the Ivory Coast has ever produced.
A move to Manchester City in 2009 saw Kolo Toure eventually team up with his brother Yaya. The two became fan favorites due to their work rate and commitment to making Manchester City a force in the Premier League.
7. Riyad Mahrez (Algeria)
- Position: Right Winger
A member of the Leicester City team that won promotion to the Premier League and then shocked the entire soccer world by winning the Premier League in 2016, Mahrez took the league by storm with several high-performance displays.
A vital team member, Mahrez predominantly plays on the right wing, cutting inside to either create chances or take on shots himself.
A lethal finisher for a winger, Mahrez is versatile enough to play anywhere and has at times been deployed as a striker, attacking midfielder, and winger.
His scoring and assists record led Mahrez to be bought by Manchester City in 2018, and he has become an excellent addition to what has quickly become the best team in the country.
6. Didier Drogba (Ivory Coast)
- Position: Centre-Forward
Chelsea legend Didier Drogba was a giant of a striker; he used his strength and lethal finishing to become a Premier League great and the Ivory Coast’s top scorer.
The first African player to score 100 Premier League goals, Drogba was a late arrival to soccer, where most professionals signed their first contract at 16; Drogba received his first contract at 21.
The perfect target man, Drogba was rough, strong, and liked nothing more than barging through opponents to have a shot on goal.
One of the Abramovich-era signings, the Ivorian became a fan favorite thanks to his determination and effort and will go down in history as one of the Premier League’s greatest strikers.
5. Sadio Mane (Senegal)
- Position: Left Winger
After arriving at Southampton from Red Bull Salzburg in 2014, Sadio mane quickly displayed the determination and finishing skills that would eventually turn him into one of the best attacking players in Europe.
At Southampton, Mane set a new Premier League record for the fastest hat-trick in history, scoring three goals in just 176 seconds in a 6-1 demolition of Aston Villa.
A move to league giants Liverpool in 2016 propelled Mane into the big time, with the Senegal star helping Liverpool to several Champions League finals and helping the club to their first league title in decades.
A phenomenal partnership with Mohamed Salah turned Mane into one part of the most feared strikeforce in soccer. A 2022 move to Bayern Munich will likely prove just as productive for the talented, hard-working Senegalese striker.
4. Yaya Toure (Ivory Coast)
- Position: Central Midfield
Not only is Yaya Toure regarded as one of the greatest African soccer players of all time, but he is also often cited as being the best box-to-box midfielder of his generation.
A superb athlete, Toure made a name for himself at Barcelona and Manchester City, where his surging runs would often strike fear into opponents.
Regarded as one of the strongest players in the world, Toure was just as adept at tackling as he was at passing and would often break up an attack at one end of the pitch and then carry the ball far into the opponent’s half.
Widely regarded as the complete midfielder, Toure could play in every position through the side, from central defense, midfield, attacking midfield, and second striker.
With over a hundred caps for the Ivory Coast, Toure was, along with brother Kolo Toure, one of the most influential African players of the era.
An African Cup of nations winner in 2015, Toure also has three Premier League titles, two La Liga titles, and a Champions League winners medal, making him one of the most successful players on our list.
3. Samuel Eto’o (Cameroon)
- Position: Centre-Forward
Four-time African soccer player of the year Samuel Eto’o was a professional soccer player for over twenty years and is rightly considered one of the greatest strikers in history.
A Real Madrid youth academy graduate, Eto’o never made the grade at Madrid, which makes his 108 league goals in only 144 league games for Barcelona even more galling for Madrid fans.
Eto’o scored goals wherever he went, a ruthless, selfish striker that had one thing in mind, hot the back of the net. Eto’o was equally lethal for Cameroon, scoring 56 goals in 118 appearances. Eto’o had pace, power, an accurate shot, and could use both feet as well as his head to score goals.
A difficult player to dispossess, and an even harder one to catch, Eto’o had all the attributes needed to be a world-class striker.
A strong-willed player with an opinion on everything, Eto’o was nevertheless an excellent team player. He was often used out of position due to his work rate, stamina, and ability to track back.
You’ll not find a more clinical finisher in world soccer than Samuel Eto’o at his best, and the Cameroonian legend is now the president of the Cameroonian Football Federation.
2. Mohamed Salah (Egypt)
- Position: Right Winger
It may have taken Egyptian star, Mohamed Salah, a while to get up to speed; his early career was often disjointed, with several moves before finally finding a home at Liverpool, but now that he’s at a club that suits him, he’s taken off like a rocket.
Despite being regarded as an exceptional prospect in his younger days, Salah could never quite make the transition to world-class, and spells at Chelsea, Roma, Fiorentina, and Basel, were largely underwhelming. So a move to Liverpool in 2017 raised eyebrows. Why would Liverpool buy a known underperformer?
However, the scouts and manager at Liverpool clearly knew their business, as the Egyptian quickly transformed into the player who had shown such promise.
Mohamed Salah is now one of the most feared strikers in world soccer. Salah is the complete striker in a front three at Liverpool, able to score goals, assist, and bring teammates into scoring positions.
A Champions League winner with Liverpool, Salah has also helped the Merseyside club lift their first Premier League title in three decades and finish runners-up in two more Champions League finals. An FA Cup, EFL Cup, and a FIFA World Club Cup also take pride of place in the player’s trophy cabinet.
1. George Weah (Liberia)
- Position: Centre-Forward
When a soccer player is so popular that they are able, after retirement, to move into politics and become president of their country, you know they’re something special.
Liberia’s George Weah was a special player; one of the most prolific and talented players of the past 50 years, Weah was a pacy, strong, and clinical striker.
Along with fellow strikers Romario and Ronaldo, Weah helped to transform what it meant to be a striker. No longer could a center forward sit on the edge of the six-yard box and wait for teammates to provide chances.
Weah was instrumental in the evolution of a new breed of striker; strikers now had to create their own opportunities, move outside the penalty area, and run at goal from further out.
Thanks to his stamina, strength, work rate, and clinical finishing, Weah was the perfect player to transition to this new style; he could run all day and was powerful enough to go through defenses.
An 18-year career saw Weah score almost a goal every two games, with the striker scoring 194 league goals in just 413 appearances.
One goal in particular summed up the genius of George Weah when playing for Milan against Verona in 1995. The Milan striker picked up the ball at the edge of his own penalty box and loped upfield, dodging challenge after challenge, before scoring one of the most incredible goals the Serie A has ever seen.
George Weah is often voted the most influential African player of all time, not just because he was an excellent soccer player but also because of his incredible humanitarian efforts.
It’s a tragedy that Weah never got to play at a World Cup or win a Champions League title, but he’s topped our list of the best African soccer players of all time for sheer talent and cultural importance.