Top 20 Premier League African Footballers of early 2000s

African players have shown greatness whenever and wherever they are called to play the beautiful game of football. The early 2000s saw a proliferation of great African players fly with colours in the English premier league. This piece of work celebrates the achievements, successes of Top 20 African players about two decades ago to grace the Premier League at a point in their career. This content is not exclusively about these players’ time in England but their overall performance and greatness in football. 

  1. Samuel Eto’o 

Four times African footballer of the year, Eto’o, joined Chelsea in the summer of 2013 and left to join Everton the following year. We can say he joined these two clubs at a time he’s past his peak but he had a relatively good time at both clubs (most especially at Chelsea). Eto’o contributed to 19 goals (scored 12 and provided 7 assists) and 6 goals (scored 4 and provided 2 assists) in 35 and 20 games in all competitions for Chelsea and Everton respectively. 

The 38 years old achieved a lot during his time in La Liga and Serie A. He won three Champions League trophies, two Spanish Cups and two Spanish super cups with Barcelona.  At Inter Milan, Eto’o lifted one Champions league, one League title, two Italian Cups and one Italian super cup. He also won two Nations cups and one Olympic Gold with Cameroon at the international level. 

The former Cameroonian striker became La Liga top scorer in 05/06 season with 26 goals. He also won the African cup of nations 2006 and 2008 edition top scorer. Samuel Eto’o had 359 goals in 718 club football career games, he retired from football September this year. 

2. George Weah 

The Premier League didn’t see the best of George Weah during his time in England. Weah joined Chelsea on loan from Ac Milan in the year 2000 where he managed to score just 4 goals in 13 appearances but won the 2000 FA cup with Chelsea. His deal with The Blues wasn’t made permanent. He then moved to sign for Manchester City on a 2-year contract but parted with The Citizens just 10 weeks into joining them. He scored just a goal in 7 games for City. 
Now Liberia president, George won Coupe de France in 1991 and won the African footballer of the year in 1989 during one of his four seasons with Monaco. 
At PSG, he also won two Coupe de France titles (1993 and 1995) and the French league title in 1994. With the Italian giants (Ac Milan), George Weah won the Italian Seria A in 95/96 and 98/99 seasons. 
Weah is the only African football player to have ever won Fifa Ballon d’Or award (1995). He’s got three African footballers of the year award and one Uefa best player in Europe among his collections. 

Didier Drogba

Drogba, a Chelsea legend and one of Premier league football icons was fantastic during his days in England. The Ivorian became a Chelsea player July 2004 from Marseille. Prime Didier Drogba played in the Premier League, scored lots of goals and won many trophies with The Blues. The two times African footballer of the year won four Premier League titles, four English FA cups, three League cups and one Champions League trophy with Chelsea. Drogba, an integral part of Chelsea team became Premier league highest goals scorer in 05/06 and 09/10 seasons. The former Ivory Coast forward saw the back of the net 164 times and provided 86 assists in 381 matches for Chelsea in all competitions.

4. Kanu Nwankwo 

Kanu was part of the Arsenal side that went 49 games unbeaten in the Premier League. He played for three English teams (Arsenal, Portsmouth and West Bromwich Albion). He won one Premier League title and three English FA cups (two with Arsenal and one with Portsmouth) during his days in England. Kanu also won one Champions League with Ajax and one Uefa Cup with Inter Milan. The two times African footballer of the year was also part of the Nigeria Olympic team that won Gold in 1996. 

5. Yaya Toure

Before Yaya Toure joined Manchester City in 2010, he had already won one Champions League title, two La Liga trophies and one Spanish cup with Barcelona. The Ivorian had a successful spell at City and as a matter of fact, he’s one of Manchester City’s best players of all time. With City, he won three Premier League titles, three league cups and one FA cup. 

Yaya is the only player in history to win four African footballers of the year award after Samuel Eto’o. Yaya is still active and now plays for QD Huanghai in China. 

6. Michael Essien 

At Chelsea, Essien was a solid box-to-box midfielder that did his duties well and controlled the centre of the park for the Blues. The Ghanaian joined Chelsea in 2005 and became a regular figure in Mourinho’s Chelsea team. Under the Portuguese tutelage, Essien won four FA Cups and two Premier League titles. He currently plays for FK Sabail in Azerbaijan.  

7. Jay Jay Okocha 

Okocha, two times BBC African footballer of the year was pure class during his time as a football player. He’s known as one of the game’s purest magicians and good dribbler of the ball. The former Nigerian international signed for Bolton Wanderers in 2002 and was one of their fans’ favourites during his 4 years spell at the club because of the way he entertained them with his skills.

8. Njitap Geremi 

Geremi played for two English teams (Chelsea and Newcastle United). He was a versatile right-sider who showed class whenever he was called upon. On his profile, he’s got two Champions League medals with Real Madrid and won domestic trophies with Chelsea. Geremi also won Gold with Cameroon Olympic team. 

9. Lauren (Laureano Bisan-Etame Mayer)

Like Kanu, Lauren was part of Arsenal’s legendary “Invincibles” team that went unbeaten in 49 league games between 03/04 and 04/05 seasons. He won domestic trophies with the gunners. He also played for Portsmouth where he won the English FA Cup with them. At the international level, Lauren won two cups of nations and one Olympic Gold medal with Cameroon. 

10. Benni McCarthy 

McCarthy was a former player for Blackburn Rovers and Westham United in England. He really didn’t make things happen at Westham but he was fantastic for Blackburn. The Bafana Bafana icon was a deadly striker for The Riversiders (Blackburn). He scored 52 goals and assisted 10 times in 140 games at Blackburn Rovers.  Before he went to England, he had already won a Champions League trophy with FC Porto. McCarthy 31 international goals make him South Africa’s highest-ever scorer. He’s currently the head coach of Cape Town City football club.  

11. Kolo Toure 

Kolo Toure is arguably one of Premier League finest defenders of all time. His partnership with Sol Campbell in the Arsenal defence was solid and these two defenders formed a bedrock upon which Arsenal’s “invincibles” side was constructed. He joined the gunners 2002 from ASEC Mimosas in a deal worth less than £200,000. The Ivorian won one Premier League title and two FA Cups with Arsenal. Toure was part of the Ivory Coast team that won the African cup of Nations in 2015. He left Arsenal 2009 to join Manchester City and later on joined Liverpool before finally retiring at Celtic in 2017. 

12. El-Hadji Diouf 

The former Senegalese forward won the African footballer of the year award in 2001 and 2002 when he was at RC Lens. He was signed by Liverpool in 2002 and also played in three more English teams in the premier league (Bolton, Sunderland and Blackburn). He scored 6 goals and assisted 5 times in 80 games for Liverpool. Diouf won the English league cup with the reds in 2003. At Bolton Wanderers, he managed to score 24 goals and provided 16 assists in 133 matches.      

13. Rigobert Song 

In his days, Song was known for his defensive ability, unique character and personality. He was signed by Liverpool January 1999 but was sold to West Ham two years later. He left the hammers (West ham) July 2002 to Lens in France on a free transfer. Rigobert Song was the most valuable player at 2002 African cup of nations – he’s two African titles with the indomitable lions of Cameroon.  

14. Patrick Mboma 

Mboma won both the African footballer of the year and BBC African footballer of the year awards in the year 2000 – That’s a year before he joined Sunderland on loan. The former Cameroonian striker had a brief career at Sunderland as he only managed to score just a goal in 9 appearances for the club. He was part of the Cameroon team that won two AFCON titles and Olympic Gold in the early 2000s.  

15. John Mikel Obi 

Mikel went to Chelsea in 2006 with so many potentials in him, the former Nigerian captain internationally played as a defensive midfielder in his days at Chelsea. His defensive positioning was very good, he’s got this ability in man-marking and zonal marking players out. Mikel was an experiment Mourinho tried to succeed Claude Makelele in the role of a defensive midfielder and it seemed Mikel fitted in well after Makelele left for PSG in 2008. Mikel Obi won lots of domestic trophies and one champions league trophy with Chelsea. He was also part of the Nigeria side that won AFCON 2013. 

16. Joseph Yobo

Yobo spent most of his time as a professional footballer at Everton. The former defender joined the toffees in 2003 and played over 200 games in all competitions for the club. Even as a defender Yobo found the back of the net 10 times for Everton. He also played for Norwich in 13/14 premier league campaign. The former Nigeria national team captain lifted two league titles with Turkish side Fenerbahce and he was also part of the super eagles that won AFCON in 2013. He retired as a professional footballer in 2015.  

17. Emmanuel Adebayor 

Adebayor was signed from Monaco by Arsenal in 2006. He was Arsenal’s first-choice striker for more than two seasons. The Togolese scored 62 goals and assisted 22 times in 142 games in all competitions for the gunners. His goal against Villarreal in the champions league 2009 was nominated for Fifa Puskàs award. Emmanuel Adebayor was African footballer of the year for 2008. He was a former player for Manchester City, Tottenham and Crystal Palace in the premier league. He won the Spanish cup with Real Madrid in 2011.      

18. Solomon Kalou

Ivory coast players that played in the premier league during this period relatively did well in their respective club, including Solomon Kalou. Kalou joined Chelsea 2006 and went as far as playing 254 games in all competitions for the Blues, scoring 60 goals and providing 44 assists. The Ivorian international is well known as a left-winger but can also play as a centre-forward, second striker and right-winger. He left Chelsea for Lille in the summer of 2012 after winning the Uefa Champions League with Chelsea. Kalou is currently a player of Hertha BSC in Germany.      

19. Emmanuel Eboue

Eboue was signed by Arsenal in 2005 from KSK Beveren. He played as a right-back for the gunners but was pushed forward sometimes to play as a right midfield because of his attacking ability. The former Ivorian international in 132 premier league games for Arsenal scored 5 goals and provided 16 assists. Eboue in his over 200 appearances in all competitions for the gunners contributed to 30 goals (scored 10 and assisted 20 times). Emmanuel Eboue won the FA Cup with Arsenal in 2005.  

20. Finidi George 

The Premier League never saw the best of Finidi when he came around. The former Nigerian international joined Ipswich Town in the summer of 2001 but never lived up to his best at the club. The former right-winger was labelled as an infamous flop as he struggled to make an impact at Ipswich. Finidi 6 premier league goals in 25 matches couldn’t save Ipswich Town from relegation that season. Finidi won the African cup of nations with Nigeria in 1994 and Champions League trophy with Ajax in 1995. He retired from playing football in July 2004.