THE AFRICA Cup of Nations is currently showcasing the best of African football.
This week the Voice of Sport names the very best players to emerge from the continent.
Larbi Benbarek, Morocco
The gifted midfielder was the first international star of African football in the 1940s and 1950s. The original ‘Black Pearl’ won successive league titles at Atletico Madrid in 1950 and 1951 and represented France for 16 years in an era before Morocco had a national side of its own.
Didier Drogba, Ivory Coast
The double African Footballer of the Year has struck a wealth of goals and snared a string of trophies at Marseille and Chelsea, culminating in the Champions League title, where he claimed the equaliser and converted the winning penalty in the shoot-out. Yet he has only managed a runners-up medal in the Cup of Nations.
Nwankwo Kanu, Nigeria
The rangy and languid Kanu was the 1996 African Footballer of the Year. He won the European Cup with Ajax before claiming Olympic Gold with the Super Eagles. He later recovered from heart
surgery to collect a slew of silverware at Arsenal, including the league and cup double in 2002.
Kalusha Bwalya, Zambia
The 1988 African Footballer of the year is Zambia’s most capped international and won two titles at Bobby Robson’s PSV Eindhoven before moving to Club America in Mexico. Kalusha was national captain in April 1993 when he discovered that 18 team-mates had perished in an air disaster.
Michael Essien, Ghana
Before injuries took their toll the Real Madrid man was the most coveted midfielder in Europe. His success at Lyon was surpassed by the understated impact he had at Chelsea, where the silverware flowed. Essien starred as Ghana reached the last-16 of the World Cup in 2006.
Abedi Pele, Ghana
You have to be good when assuming the name of the thrice World Cup winner and the former Black Stars captain was exceptional. Pele won the European Cup with Marseille in 1993 and lifted the Africa Cup of Nations with Ghana in 1982. His 33 goals in 73 internationals remains a national record.
George Weah, Liberia
Weah remains the only African to win the World Player of the Year award. That year, 1995, he also collected the European and African Footballer of the Year awards. The Liberian forward suffered in a weak national team but compensated with league titles and assorted trophies at Monaco, Paris St Germain and AC Milan.
Yaya Toure, Ivory Coast
The 2011 and 2012 African Player of the Year drove Manchester City to their first title in 44 years last summer and enjoyed a successful spell at Barcelona, where he lifted the Champions League. Alongside Didier Drogba, he still seeks to deliver tangible success to Ivory Coast’s fabled ‘golden generation’.
Samuel Eto’o, Cameroon
It is a shame that a forward of Eto’o’s supreme ability is seeing out his career in lucrative semi-exile at Anzhi Makhachkala. The triple Champions League winner has also claimed two Cup of Nations titles and an Olympic gold with Cameroon. He has been African Player of the year on four occasions.
If Benbarek sparked the colonial rush for African talent in the 1950s and 1960s then Eusebio represented the epitome. ‘The Black Panther’ capped a prolific career with European Cup success at Benfica and the 1966 World Cup golden boot with Portugal at a time when Mozambique had no national side.