Africa’s 20 years of Premier League excellence

JOHANNESBURG - It was Africa day yesterday and we thought SuperSport.com marked the occasion by giving its viewers and readers the best the continent has had to offer in the 20 years of England’s Premier League existence. They came up with a number of awards for best players and teams.
Austin Jay-Jay Okocha.
Austin Jay-Jay Okocha.

JOHANNESBURG - It was Africa day yesterday and we thought SuperSport.com marked the occasion by giving its viewers and readers the best the continent has had to offer in the 20 years of England’s Premier League existence. They came up with a number of awards for best players and teams.

SuperSport.com has come up with a selection of honours celebrating the African stars that have helped to not only shape the League but have also been key in popularising the Premier League in Africa.

They present the best African XI of the last 20 seasons. The selectors took into consideration longetivity, honours and overall impact.

They have looked at the overall picture from 1992/93 to 2011/2012 season, so it was a very long list of extraordinary group of African players to choose from.

We are going with a 3-5-2 formation with three defenders, five midfielders and two strikers.

Goalkeeper

Bruce Grobbelaar - Zimbabwe (Liverpool, Southampton)

African goalkeepers have not enjoyed much success in the Premier League and with clubs limited in their foreign quota, most have preferred to rather sign outfield players.

South Africa’s Andre Arendse made 12 appearances for Fulham but Richard Kingson enjoyed the attention of three clubs, namely Birmingham (1game), Wigan (4 games) and Blackpool where he made 20 league appearances

Our choice of Bruce Grobbelaar is because he still stands heads and shoulders above all else despite retiring in 1996. Bruce is part of the Liverpool folklore, winning league titles and the 1984 European Cup. He would remain until the birth of the Premier League and would end his career at the south-coast club, Southampton.

Defence

Joseph Yobo - Nigeria (Everton)

Everton’s manager David Moyes has emerged as one of the most astute around in his 10 years at the club and his first signing back in 2002 was the versatile Nigerian defender, Joseph Yobo, who was comfortable playing in midfield or anywhere in the back four.

Moyes would deploy Yobo in the heart of the Everton defence where he flourished for eight years before heading off on loan to Fernabache.

Kolo Toure - Ivory Coast (Arsenal, Manchester City)

The Ivorian was an integral member of the Arsenal invincible side that went unbeaten in the 2004-2005 season.

Kolo formed a formidable partnership with Sol Campbell as Arsenal reached the 2006 Uefa Champions League final, losing narrowly to Barcelona

Lucas Radebe - South Africa (Leeds United)

Leeds United might be languishing in English-football obscurity today, but a few years ago they regularly qualified for the Champions League and held their own against the best of Europe. Lucas Radebe was key to that charge

‘The Chief’, as he was affectionately called, even became captain and is a bona fide legend.

Midfield

Michael Essien - Ghana (Chelsea)

Michael Essien was Mr. Efficiency at Chelsea and a stalwart from the moment he arrived from Lyon in France.

He was so versatile that Chelsea deployed him effectively in defensive or offensive midfield roles, as well as often playing him at centreback. He possessed an incredible knack for scoring crucial goals when presented with the opportunity.

His career has been blighted by injuries sustained on international duty with his country Ghana, but Essien remains one of the cult figures of English football.

John Obi Mikel - Nigeria (Chelsea)

Mikel was hailed as the ‘next best thing’ along with Lionel Messi at the Holland 2005 Fifa World Youth Championships, where he shone brightly as an attacking midfielder with Nigeria losing narrowly 1-2 to Argentina.

However, he arrived in England after a sensational, albeit controversial, transfer to Chelsea after initially signing for Manchester United.

Jose Mourinho thought otherwise, converting him to a holding midfielder and subsequent coaches (Avram Grant, Luis Filipe Scolari, Guus Hiddink, Carlo Ancelotti, Andre Villas-Boas and Roberto Di Matteo) all agreed with his ability to direct play in front of the back four.

Austin Jay-Jay Okocha - Nigeria (Bolton)

Bolton fans say Jay-Jay Okocha was so good, they named him twice. This season, Bolton got relegated after many years in the top flight, but their best run was when Okocha directed the traffic. They went from relegation battlers to top-10 finishers and fans of the Premier League will never forget his amazing skills.

Yaya Toure

Yaya Toure has been in the premier League for just two season but his impact has been felt big time, with Manchester City winning the FA Cup in 2011, qualifying for the Uefa Champions League and winning the Premier League this year.

Yaya’s strong running and crucial goals have been key to City’s success and nobody will leave him out of their squad.

Nwankwo Kanu - Nigeria (Arsenal, West Brom, Portsmouth)

The king needs no introduction and just to underscore his right to be on this list, Arsenal will soon be visiting his country Nigeria for the first time. They owe their huge fan base there to the magic of the tall, languid figure of Kanu, who won two League and Cup doubles with Arsenal .

Nothing beats the story of Nwankwo Kanu, fresh from surviving an almost career- and life-threatening heart condition at Inter Milan to emerge as one of the fairytales of not just the Premier League, but the global football family.

Strikers

Didier Drogba - Ivory Coast (Chelsea)

What can we say about Didier Drogba, who has just completed an amazing career with Chelsea winning three League titles, four FA Cup medals and the Uefa Champions League?

He has amassed an amazing 100 goals and had an uncanny knack for scoring in major finals: seven goals in seven English Cup finals, and four in his last four FA Cup finals. Drogba will go down as the most successful African Player in the Premier League.

Yakubu Aiyegbeni - Nigeria (Portsmouth, Middleborough, Everton, Blackburn)

What Drogba did at the top of the table, Yakubu did at the other end with unfacied teams, and nothing cements his legendary status more than scoring 17 goals even as Blackburn got relegated this past season. He has 96 League goals to his name so far

Top 20 (in no particular order)

This is a very difficult list to draw up, as so many gifted players had to be dropped but we have gone for players in varied positions so as to accommodate their different talents and avoid having too many strikers.

While a lot of great players like George Weah, Finidi George, Daniel Amokachi, Benni McCarthy and Taribo West had brief careers in the Premier League, they will be remembered for their exploits elsewhere than in the Premier League.

We have, however, accommodated one player who has been there for just half a season, but his impact has been phenomenal. Papiss Demba Cisse at Newcastle has been a revelation. He gets in ahead of compatriots Demba Ba,Henri Camara, Pape Bouba Dioup and the controversial El-Hadji Diouf

Another remarkable story is that of Yaya Toure, who was already twice been a European champion with Barcelona. He joined Manchester City and in just two seasons has inspired them to first the FA Cup triumph and now their first League title in 44 years.

Africa’s best:

1. Didier Drogba - Ivory Coast (Chelsea)

2. Nwankwo Kanu - Arsenal (West Brom, Portsmouth)

3. Michael Essien - Ghana (Chelsea)

4. John Obi Mikel - Nigeria (Chelsea)

5. Tony Yeboah - Ghana (Leeds)

6. Lucas Radebe - South Africa (Leeds)

7. Emmanuel Eboue - Ivory Coast(Arsenal)

8. Austin Jay-Jay Okocha - Nigeria (Bolton)

9. Lauren Etama-Mayer - Cameroon (Arsenal)

10. Stephen Pienaar - South Africa (Everton, Tottenham Hotspur)

11. Kolo Toure - Ivory Coast (Arsenal, Manchester City)

12. Yaya Toure - Ivory Coast (Manchester City)

13. Alex Song - Cameroon (Arsenal)

14. Peter Ndlovu - Zimbabwe (Coventry)

15. Papiss Demba Cisse - (Newcastle)

16. Yakubu Aiyegbeni – Nigeria (Portsmouth, Middlesbrough, Everton, Blackburn Rovers)

17. Emmanuel Adebayor - Togo (Arsenal, Manchester City, Tottenham)

18. Joseph Yobo - Nigeria (Everton)

19. Bruce Grogbelaar - Zimbabwe (Liverpool, Southampton)

20. Peter Osaze Odemwingie - Nigeria (West Brom)

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