Legends of Ghana: Five of the best Ghanian footballers of all time
Ghana has a rich footballing tradition and has produced some incredibly talented players over the years. Many of those players have made their mark on both the domestic and international stages thanks to their silky skills, eye for goal, and dogged determination. The following five men are considered some of the best to have ever represented the Black Stars, so lace up your boots, and let’s delve straight into the action.
Anthony Yeboah was not only a great goalscorer but a scorer of great goals. Indeed, some of Yeboah’s incredible goals are frequently rated as the best ever scored in the English Premier League. His time in England was limited, but he was always the favorite with the online sportsbook MyBookie to win the coveted Goal of the Season award.
Yeboah was born in Kumasi, Ghana, in June 1966 and played domestic football for Asante Kotoko, Cornerstones Kumasi, and Okwawu United between 1981 and 1987. In 1988, Yeboah joined German club 1. FC Saabrucken and became one of the first black players to appear in the Bundesliga. After a slow start to life in Germany, Yeboah scored 17 goals in his second season, prompting Eintracht Frankfurt to sign him.
The Eintracht Frankfurt fans did not take too kindly to Yeboah, with some sections of the crowd subjecting him to racist insults. However, Yeboah quickly silenced those morons by establishing himself as a deadly striker who was the Bundesliga’s top scorer twice before becoming the first African Bundesliga captain.
Leeds United paid Frankfurt £3.4 million for Yeboag in January 1995, and he became an instant hit with the then-Premier League club. He scored 32 goals in 66 appearances, including spectacular strikes against Liverpool and Wimbledon, the latter earning him the 1995-96 Goal of the Season.
Yeboah left Leeds for Hamburger SV in Germany in 1997 but never hit the same dizzy heights as earlier in his career. He had a brief spell in Saudi Arabia before hanging up his boots. Yeboah scored 187 goals in 415 games, plus 29 in 59 appearances for the Ghanaian national team.
Abedi “Pele” Ayew
Abedi Ayew, affectionately known as “Pele,” was an attacking midfielder who captured the imaginations of Ghanaian football fans during a career that spanned 20 years. Born in Kibi, Eastern Region, Ghana, in November 1964, Ayew started his professional playing career in 1980 with Real Tamale United. Ayew’s precise passing and mesmerizing dribbling ability made him a force to be reckoned with on the pitch.
Ayew played for some of European football’s most recognizable teams, including Marseille, Lille, Lyon, Torino, and 1860 Munich. However, it is his time wearing the famous Black Stars shirt that he is often best remembered.
Having played 73 games for Ghana, Ayew captained the team during the early 1990s, leading them to their first FIFA World Cup appearance in 1992. His form in the early 90s saw him earn the title of African Footballer of the Year in 1991, 1992, and 1993.
Michael Essien is not only one of the best midfielders to have represented Ghana but one of the best midfielders of his generation. The versatile and tenacious Essien built a reputation for his fierce defensive ability and penchant for scoring long-range goals.
Born in Accra in December 1982, Essien played for local club Liberty Professionals, where it was evident he was an incredible talent. Manchester United offered Essien a trial when he was 17, but he was ineligible for a work permit in the United Kingdom, so he ultimately headed to Bastia in France.
After scoring 11 goals in 66 games, Essien moved to Lyon for €7.8 million. Essien was named the Ligue 1 Player of the Year in his final season, prompting Chelsea to pay £24.4 million, a club record for the English Premier League team at the time.
Essien became a fan favorite with The Blues despite frequent injury problems. In his nine years at Chelsea, Essien played 256 games and scored 25 goals, winning the Premier League twice, the League Cup, the FA Cup four times, and the UEFA Champions League.
After Chelsea, Essien played for Real Madrid and AC Milan before a brief spell with Panathinaikos. Essien ended his career with a few games for Indonesian club Persib Bandung and Sabail of the Azerbaijan league.
Born in November 1985, Asamoah Gyan is a name that every Ghanaian football fan knows. The striker only retired from the beautiful game in June 2023, having enjoyed a career spanning two decades.
Gyan scored ten goals in 16 games for Liberty Professionals in 2003, which earned him a move to Udinese in Italy. Gyan spent five years in Italy, including a loan spell with Modena. He then moved to Rennes of France in 2008, scoring 14 times in 48 games, prompting Sunderland, who were then in the Premier League, to pay a club record £13 million for the striker. Sunderland struggled in the Premier League, but Gyan still managed ten goals in 34 games.
Gyan left Sunderland for Al Ain of the Saudi Arabia Pro League, where he earned a cool £6 million per season. He scored an incredible 128 goals in 123 games in Saudi Arabia before heading to Shanghai SIPG in China, where his salary was £227,000 per week! Towards the end of his career, Gyan played in Turkey and India before ending his playing days back in Ghana with Legon Cities.
Having scored six goals across three tournaments, Gyan is Ghana’s all-time record goal scorer at the FIFA World Cup.
The versatile Kwadwo Asamoah was equally adept at playing as a left-back, central midfielder, or left midfielder. He could turn out brilliant performances wherever his manager selected him to play. Born in December 1988, Asamoah started his youth career with Kaaseman and Liberty Professionals before joining Swiss club Bellinzona in 2008.
In 2008, Asamoah was signed by Serie A team Udinese, where he became a mainstay in the team and began representing the Ghana national team. After 134 appearances for Udinese, Asamoah transferred to Juventus, where he played another 156 games, winning the Serie A title six times and seven domestic cups.
Asamoah moved to Inter Milan in July 2018, where he spent three seasons, eventually ending his career with Cagliari. To this day, Asamoah holds the record for the most Serie A appearances by an African player with 279, surpassing fellow Ghanian Sully Muntari (270).
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