Sadio Mane, Drogba and the top 10 Africans in Premier League history

Suraj Radia
  • Suraj Radia
  • Updated: 22 Jun 2022 13:38 CEST
  • 6 min read
Suraj Radia Updated: 22 Jun 2022 13:38 CEST 6 min read
Sadio Mane, Liverpool, 2021/22

Sadio Mane's time at Liverpool has come to an end, having proven himself as one of the greatest African players to grace the Premier League.

The Senegalese international's move to Bayern Munich has been confirmed, and he leaves England as the second-highest scoring African in Premier League history.

Mane has written his name into football folklore alongside the likes of Didier Drogba and fellow Liverpool teammate Mohamed Salah.

FootballTransfers takes a look at who would be considered the top 10 African players in Premier League history.

10) Lauren

As Arsene Wenger sought to move on from the famous back four he inherited, he had no problems replacing stalwart Lee Dixon at right-back.

Olympic gold medallist Lauren arrived from Mallorca in 2000 and went on to establish himself as an Arsenal club legend.

He was a consistent presence as Wenger's side won the domestic double in 2001-02 before starring for the 'Invincibles' in 2003-04.

Cameroonian Lauren is also fondly remembered for a couple of key penalties during his Arsenal days; one against Tottenham en-route to the title in 2002 and against Manchester United in the 2005 FA Cup final penalty shootout.

9) Nwankwo Kanu

The quintessential supersub, Nwankwo Kanu made 113 of his 273 Premier League appearances off the bench and built a legacy as a hard worker more than a prolific scorer.

The Nigerian joined Arsenal in 1999 and wrote himself into Gunners folklore by scoring a hat-trick in 15 minutes off the bench against Chelsea to turn a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 win.

Kanu won five trophies at Arsenal including a league title as one of the 'Invincibles' before ending his career with spells at West Brom and Portsmouth.

8) Jay-Jay Okocha

So good they named him twice, Jay-Jay Okocha lit up English football after signing for Bolton Wanderers back in 2002.

Okocha was already a midfield mainstay for a golden generation Nigeria team, and had Eintracht Frankfurt, Fenerbahce and Paris Saint-Germain on his footballing CV when he joined Sam Allardyce's project at the Reebok Stadium.

He may have the fewest trophies among the players on this list - a League Cup runners-up medal from 2004 the closest he got to silverware - while 18 goals in four seasons make him far from the most prolific, but such stats only tell a fraction of his story.

Okocha was a scorer of great goals rather than a great scorer of goals, and his ability with the ball at his feet mesmerized fans and saw him voted Bolton's best ever player in 2017.

7) Kolo Toure

Centre-backs often get overlooked in such lists - Fabio Cannavaro and Franz Beckenbauer are the only two ever to have been voted World Player of the Year - but the elder Toure brother is impossible to ignore.

An unpolished gem when Arsenal picked him up for just £150,000 (€175,000) from Ivorian outfit ASEC Mimosas in 2002, Kolo Toure famously injured Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp AND Arsene Wenger on his first day of training, but the Gunners signed him, and the rest is history.

One half of Arsenal's invincibles central defensive partnership with Sol Campbell, Toure followed up that league title win with another Premier League triumph at Manchester City in 2012.

6) Michael Essien

Michael Essien became Chelsea's record buy in 2005 after they beat a host of clubs to sign him for £24.4m from Lyon and the Ghanian proved to be worth every penny.

He won nine trophies with Chelsea however his time in England was often blighted by injuries, limiting him to just 168 appearances in eight seasons.

In spite of his fitness issues, he was often recognised as one of the best defensive midfielders in the world and was nominated for the Ballon d'Or in three successive years.

5) Riyad Mahrez

Riyad Mahrez, Man City

Riyad Mahrez has won three Premier League titles since swapping Leicester City for Manchester City in 2018, and Pep Guardiola rates the Algeria winger as one of his most important players.

But it shouldn't be forgotten than Mahrez was central to one of the greatest upsets in English footballing history - helping unfancied Leicester to those same heights, the Foxes crowned Premier League champions against all odds in 2016.

Nobody could contend with Jamie Vardy and Mahrez in the final third that year, and Mahrez's 17 goals and 11 assists came in at a rate of one every 109 minutes he played.

4) Sadio Mane

Sadio Mane has been an absolute credit to the league since joining Southampton from Red Bull Salzburg in 2014, and his hat-trick for the Saints in a 6-1 win over Aston Villa remains the quickest three-goal haul in Premier League history (at two minutes and 56 seconds).

It is at Liverpool where the Senegalese attacker has become world-class, though: 120 goals, 48 assists, a Premier League, a Champions League and now, as a Africa Cup of Nations winner, a genuine contender for this year's Ballon d'Or.

Signed as a right-winger, he switched flanks when Mohamed Salah followed him to Liverpool in 2017, and this season led the line amid an injury crisis up front.

3) Yaya Toure

A four-time African Footballer of the Year winner, a star of Manchester City's first title and half of an iconic football chant, Yaya Toure will undoubtedly go down as a Premier League legend.

Eyebrows were initially raised when City paid £24m to Barcelona for him however he quickly established himself as one of the best box-to-box midfielders in the league.

The Ivorian won three Premier League titles in his eight years at City and scored 59 goals from midfield including 20 when they finished as champions in 2014.

2) Mohamed Salah

Mohamed Salah and Thiago Alcantara celebrate winning the 2022 FA Cup final with Liverpool

Whilst Mane is a world-class operator, it is fair to say he has only been the second-best African forward at Liverpool over the last few seasons, with Mo Salah effectively redefining what is seen as a successful attacking output since he swapped Roma for Merseyside in June 2017.

A left-footer who prefers to line up on the right, Salah has plundered 156 goals and 63 assists in 254 games for the Reds at a rate of one every 95 minutes he has played - across five seasons.

His haul of 32 goals in 2017/18 remains the most ever recorded by a single player in a 38-game season and he is ninth on Liverpool's all-time scoring list despite not playing up front. Egyptian king indeed.

1) Didier Drogba

Chelsea legend Drogba’s son signs for Italian club

Whilst Salah has an argument to be rated as the top dog in this list, it is impossible to look past Didier Drogba as the greatest African player ever to have graced the Premier League.

At a time when Roman Abramovich was keen to throw big money at AC Milan for Andriy Shevchenko, Jose Mourinho insisted that Drogba was the player he wanted to spearhead Chelsea's assault on the Premier League applecart in 2004.

Drogba delivered and then some after his £24m (€28m) arrival from Marseille, and the Blues wrested their first Premier League title from Manchester United in his first season.

It was arguably Carlo Ancelotti who got the best out of the Ivorian, though - in 2009/10 Drogba delivered his 29 goals and 13 assists at a rate of one every 66 minutes.

The equalising goal for Chelsea against Bayern in Munich in the Champions League final in 2012 - before scoring the winning penalty in the shoot-out - further cements his legacy.