Welcome back to another Ultimate XI, and today we are going to be taking a trip to Africa!
I wanted to put together my all time African XI to see just how many good players they have produced. Tunisia were the first African team to win a game at the World Cup, and this was not until 1978!
Let’s take a look at the team!
GOALKEEPER: Thomas N’Kono
Thomas N’Kono may not be a household name, but apparently he inspired a young Gianluigi Buffon, so he must’ve been good! He was known to pull of spectacular acrobatic saves, a typical shot stopper.
The Cameroonian made 112 appearances for his national team and he appeared in three World Cups and four African Cup of Nations tournaments. His best spell at club level was spent at Espanyol, where he was a UEFA Cup runner up in 1987/88.
He was named African player of the year in 1979 and 1982, he is also a two time African Champions League winner. N’Kono is an African legend and just about makes it in ahead of Bruce Grobbelaar.
CENTRE BACK- Kolo Toure
Kolo Touré has won nine major trophies throughout his career and he has been a part of two ‘invincible’ sides (Arsenal 03/04 and Celtic 16/17). He played for three of England’s biggest clubs, Arsenal, Manchester City and Liverpool.
Touré was an excellent defender and he is still the most capped African player in the Premier League. Overall he made 353 appearances in the Premier League, and he is only one of eight players to have won it with two different clubs.
He has also had a distinguished career for the Ivory Coast, making 120 appearances and playing at three World Cup finals. He also helped his side win the 2015 African Cup of Nations.
CENTRE BACK- Samuel Kuffour
Samuel Kuffour is the first Ghanaian international to make it into this XI and he has an Olympic Bronze medal to his name, won at the 1992 games.
Kuffour played at Bayern Munich for twelve years, and won six Bundesliga titles, four DFB Pokal’s and the 2000/01 Champions League. He also had spells at Roma and Ajax, but his time in Germany was by far the best of his career.
Kuffour was named Ghana’s player of the year on three occasions, in 1998, 1999 and 2001. He appeared in the 2006 World Cup and four African cup of Nations’ with his country. He is one of the best African defenders ever.
CENTRE BACK- Rigobert Song
Rigobert Song has played in a record eight African Cup of Nations tournaments, and he was the Cameroon captain in five of them, cementing his place in this XI.
Song has played across Europe, but his longest spell came at Galatasaray, where he won two Süper Lig titles. It was at international level where he enjoyed the most success of his career, winning the African Cup of Nations in 2000 and 2002.
Song is only the second player to have been sent off in two different World Cup tournaments as he received red in 1994 and 1998, can you guess who the other player is?
CENTRAL MIDFIELD- Michael Essien
Michael Essien was one of the best defensive midfielders of his generation, and he was part of Chelsea’s Champions League winning side in 2012.
He won 13 major trophies in his career, and he is actually still playing in the Azerbaijan Premier League! Essien was named the BBC African Player of the year in 2006, and Ghana’s player of the year in 2007.
His best spell was arguably spent at Chelsea, where he won two Premier League titles in his nine years in West London, and he won many plaudits when at the base of their midfield.
CENTRAL MIDFIELD- Yaya Touré
This was possibly the most obvious decision to make in this XI, Yaya Touré is the best African player I have seen play. He has won 16 major trophies, with most of those coming during his time spent at Barcelona and Manchester City.
You cannot mention Touré without citing his incredible 2013/14 season, where he guided City to their second Premier League title. He scored 20 goals from midfield and at large parts of the season he was absolutely unstoppable, this was clearly his peak.
He was named the African player of the year back to back for four years in a row between 2011 and 2014. He made the PFA team of the year twice and he is the highest scoring African midfielder in the Premier League.
ATTACKING MIDFIELD- Abedi Pele
Our third, and arguably best Ghanaian to make this XI is Abedi Pele. My readers will probably know him more through his kids, Jordan, Andre and Ibrahim Ayew, but Abedi was a wonderful player himself.
He won the 1993 Champions League with Marseille and was also part of the Ghana side that won the 1982 African Cup of Nations. He was named the African Footballer of the year three years in a row between 1991 and 1993, he also made the ‘FIFA 100’ (which was basically a list of the greatest living players announced at the turn of the century).
He was born on the 5th of November and he was always capable of creating fireworks on the pitch as he was known for his skilful dribbling and eye for goal. He is one of Africa’s first global stars and one of the first names in this XI.
LEFT MIDFIELD- Jay-Jay Okocha
Jay-Jay Okocha is probably one of the most well known players in this XI, but he is actually the one with the barest trophy cabinets as he never won a league title at any of his seven clubs. But I think it is so important to not allow trophies to distort your view of a player, and Okocha is the perfect example of this in action.
The Nigerian is one of the most skilful players ever to have lived, and his precise dribbling made him any full backs worst nightmare. He was named the Nigerian player of the year an astonishing seven times throughout his career and was named BBC’s African Footballer of the year in 2003 and 2004.
He won the 1994 African Cup of Nations with Nigeria, and also has an Olympic Gold Medal to his name, from the 1996 games. He is a Bolton legend as he lit up the Reebok during his four year stay, and he was part of their most iconic Premier League squad.
RIGHT MIDFIELD- Mohamed Salah
Mohamed Salah is the only Egyptian in this XI, and the only player who is currently at their peak. I wanted to stick to players who have finished their careers, but Salah just had to be in this XI, and if he continues on his current trajectory then he may well be the best African player ever.
Salah has scored 72 Premier League goals, which is just 32 behind Didier Drogba who is the highest scoring African player in PL history. Salah’s 2017/18 season is definitely the best by any African player in the league, as he notched an amazing 32 goals.
He has already guided Liverpool to one Champions League title, and this season’s Premier League, and I think he is one of the greatest talents to have ever come out of Africa.
STRIKER- Didier Drogba
Choosing my striking partnership for this XI was so hard, and it was between four players; Didier Drogba, George Weah, Roger Milla and Samuel Eto’o. The first player I have decided to choose is Didier Drogba.
The Ivorian has four Premier League titles to his name, and his wonderful solo performance in the 2012 Champions League final brought the trophy back to Stamford Bridge against all odds. He is the highest scoring African Player in the Premier League and one of the defining players of the 2000’s.
He scored 164 goals across two spells for Chelsea and he was an important member of their side that won back to back titles in 2004/05 and 2005/06 with Jose Mourinho.
For me, the last spot on this list was between George Weah and Samuel Eto’o, but I have gone with the Cameroonian record goalscorer. Eto’o trophy cabinet is full to the brim, with 17 major trophies to his name.
He has won the Champions League three times and he was considered one of the best strikers in World football when he was at Barcelona. His scoring record for the Blaugrana was stupendous, as he scored 130 goals in under 200 games!
He won the African Cup of the Nations twice and his individual awards include; four time African Player of the year, World Player of the year Bronze award 2005, two time World XI inductee and he is the all time top scorer in the African Cup of Nations.
That’s all for this XI!
What a team we have put together, I would be interested to hear your suggestions for future XIs, but don’t worry I still have lots ready to go!
See you tomorrow…