Drogba, Mane snubbed in greatest African XI of all-time

Pulse Sports statistician and historian Thomas Freeman has compiled the list of the greatest African XI of all-time.

African Best 11 In No Order (1)

The parameters for the selection are the players’ art of goalkeeping, defending, marshalling the midfield or striking, consistency and achievement.

The Greatest African XI is lined-up in a 3-5-2 formation.

Thomas Nkono beat them all in the goalkeeping department and Rigobert Song, Samuel Osei Kuffour and Wael Gomaa were selected in a three-back formation.


In midfield, Michael Essien will just sit in front of the defence and in front of him is Yaya Toure with Mohammed Salah and his compatriot Mohamed Abutrieka being drafted in the four-man midfield.

In the attacking role George Weah and Samuel Eto’o will lead the lines with Abedi Pele behind them as the number 10.

Because two out and out centre forwards are preferred Didier Drogba who is equally good in that role will fall down the pecking order since he can’t beat Eto’o and Weah who are the only two persons to mount the podium for the FIFA Player of the Year.

Thomas Nkono


He is the greatest goalkeeper Africa has ever seen. His legendary status inspired Gianluigi Buffon, arguably the greatest goalkeeper in the 21st century in his goalkeeping career. 

Thomas Nkono is the only goalkeeper to have won the African Footballer of the Year and he did it not just once, but twice- 1979 and 1982.

N'Kono was a tall, strong, dynamic and athletic goalkeeper, who was known in particular for his speed, agility, reactions and ability to produce spectacular and acrobatic saves. One of his most notable characteristics was his ability to come out and punch the ball away with power when crosses were delivered into the area; his unique, instinctive and aggressive style inspired Gianluigi Buffon as a youngster.

He played in three different FIFA World Cups- 1982, 190 and 1994. Nkono inspired Cameroon to win the 1984 Africa Cup of Nations and they finished runners-up in 1986.

Rigobert Song


He was a hard-tackler of the ball and that earned him an infamous status in the FIFA World Cup- the Cameroonian defender and the legendary France midfielder Zidane are the only two persons to be sent off in two different FIFA World Cups.

Despite being a serial culprit in the books of referees, Rigobert Song is a proven reader of the ball. His defensive ability on the African continent inspired Cameroon to clinch two different Cup of Nations, with him leading the backline.

The former Galatasaray defender is the most capped player in the Africa Cup of Nations.

Samuel Osei Kuffour 


The former Bayern Munich defender is the most decorated defender in African football history.

Osei Kuffour won six Bundesliga titles, clinched the UEFA Champions League and also won the FIFA Club World Cup- all with Bayern Munich.

He is a pillar in defence and he was touted by many football fans as a stopper- he famously marked out two dangerous Manchester United strikers in Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole in final of the 1999 UEFA Champions League. Alex Ferguson withdrew them and the changes he effected resulted in Manchester United’s equaliser and match winner in late minute.

In 2007, during CAF@50, Osei Kuffour was the highest rated defender in the 30 greatest African footballers of all-time.


Wael Gomaa 

The Egyptian defender joins Sammy Kuffour and Rigobert Song in a three-defensive backline.

Wael Gomaa is rated as Egypt’s greatest defender and one of the best players in Africa. He is able to organise the defence very well and also very good when it comes to his reading of the game. 

The former Ahly defender won six CAF Champions League and three Africa Cup of Nations with Al Ahly and Egypt respectively.


Like his compatriot Abutrieka, he played all his football in Egypt, but had just a season spell in Qatar, before he hanged up his boot.

Michael Essien

He is a box to box midfielder, but very effective in the defensive midfield role. Essien was physically strong.

Essien won the French League, Premier League and crowned it with the UEFA Champions League and also earned 58 caps for Ghana. Although he was unable to inspire Ghana to success, he more than left his mark on the game.


He reigned for many years as the most expensive African footballer, after Chelsea cough up 24.5 million pounds for his signature.

Before joining the Blues, he was rated as the best French Ligue 1 Player of the Year.

Yaya Toure

He is the only player to win the African Footballer of the Year on four consecutive occasions. Toure and Eto’o are the only two players to win the highest individual award in Africa four times, which makes them the highest recipient.


Yaya Toure has clinched the La Liga, the English Premier League, the UEFA Champions League and he also captained his nation Ivory Coast to win the Africa Cup of Nations.

Mohamed Abutrieka 

He was a cult hero on the African continent. The former Al Ahly winger deserves a place in the list of all-time Africa finest XI.

Mohamed Abutrieka was a dribbler and he was very clinical in front of goal- he scored the goal that won Egypt the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations.


Abutrieka won five CAF Champions League titles and three Africa Cup of Nations trophies with Al Ahly and the Pharaohs of Egypt, respectively.

Although several clubs wanted to secure his signature, he turned down the plenty offers that came his way from abroad.

Many football loving fans rate him among the greatest players that never won the African Footballer of the Year award.

Mohamed Salah


He recently inspired Liverpool to win the UEFA Champions League.

Salah's career was close to fizzling out after he was shown the door by Chelsea. But at Liverpool he reinvented himself and won two consecutive Premier League Golden Boots and a PFA Player of the Year award.

Salah has also been crowned African Footballer of the Year twice

George Oppong Weah 


The president of the Republic of Liberia was a predator in-front of goal. He also combined goal scoring with effective dribbles. He is remembered for once dribbling many opponents, before finishing off the ball at AC Milan.

He was named the African Footballer of the Year on three occasions and he remains the only African Footballer to win the FIFA Player of the Year and the Ballon d’Or. George Oppong Weah is rated as the greatest African footballer the world has ever seen due to his unprecedented individual achievement.

His only regret is that he never played at the FIFA World Cup.

Samuel Eto’o Fils 


He was a schemer cum scorer. Eto’o is the greatest scorer in the history of the Africa Cup of Nations with 18 goals.

Samuel Eto’o Fils is the only footballer aside George Weah to mount the podium as one of the three shortlisted players for the FIFA Player of the Year in 2005, but he placed third.

He was the first African player to win the Spanish La Liga top scorer, Pichichi. 

Samuel Eto Fils won historic treble with Barcelona and Inter Milan in two consecutive seasons: the League, FA Cup and the UEFA Champions League.

Abedi Pele 


He was a playmaker and a good passer of the ball. He made football a delight to watch, with his dribbles and creativity up front.

Abedi Pele was among few African players abroad who made the headlines week in, week out. 

He played in the UEFA Champions league final in 1991 with Marseille, but they lost to Red Star Belgrade on penalties. Two years later they will make amends against AC Milan with Abedi Pele in the thick of events- provided the assists that resulted in the only goal scored on the night.

Abedi Pele as a teenager won the Africa Cup of Nations in 1982 with the Black Stars of Ghana.


He will dominate the African Footballer of the Year award, becoming the first player to win it on three consecutive occasion: 1991, 1992 and 1993.

The Best African XI was based on position:

Pulse Sports has also compiled the top ten best African Players of all-time, irrespective of positions:

George Weah

Samuel Eto’o Fils


Roger Milla

Abedi Pele

Didier Drogba

Yaya Toure

Nwankwo Kanu


Jay Jay Okocha

Hossam Hassan

Mohamed Salah

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