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Premier League: Bafana Bafana stars

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For most football fans around the world, South Africa will forever be known as the country that hosted the 2010 FIFA World Cup, becoming the first African country too host the prestigious event.

But a lot of South African footballers have been plying their trade in Europe, most of them playing in Europe's lower leagues. However their have been those that have played in Europe's top flight leagues and have made a name for themselves.

However, we look at the most successful South Africans to have played in England's top flight and paved the way forward for the next generation of Bafana Bafana stars.

Lucas Radebe

He is one of South Africa’s greatest ever footballers. He is a sporting icon in South Africa and has achieved a legendary status with his English club Leeds United.

Lucas Valeriu Radebe was born 12 April 1969 and is a former Leeds and South African football player and played primarily as a centre-back.

In 1990 at the age of 20, Radebe signed with South Africa’s pre-eminent club Kaizer Chiefs. It took him a year to break into the Amakhosi team but when his chance came to make his debut against Bush Bucks, Lucas was ready.

The Kaizer Chiefs fans quickly took notice of the composed newcomer when he brilliantly marked the great Jomo Sono in only his second match. To his delight Lucas was given the best player of the game award and later that season, was voted South Africa’s Rookie of the Year.

Kaizer Chiefs fans gave him the nick name 'Rhoo' while his teammates called him 'Lookaround' due to his amazing ability to read the game. Radebe made 113 appearances for Kaizer Chiefs scoring five goals in his five seasons at the club.

In 1994, Lucas signed with Leeds and left for England. He was plagued by a serious knee injury at the end of his first season at Leeds,  however he recovered and within four years was named Club captain.

Leeds fans called him Lucas 'The Chief' and he became the first black South African to captain a Premier League team. From 1994 to 2005, Lucas made 201 appearances without scoring a single goal for the club. In the 1999/00 season as captain, he led Leeds to their best season in England's top flight, finishing third in the Premier League.

This was a result that qualified Leeds for the following season’s Champions League where they were knocked out in the semi-finals against Valencia. Radebe's loyalty to Leeds was rewarded with a Testimonial in 2005.

At a star-studded Testimonial Game on the  2 May 2005 at Elland Road - home of Leeds United - 38,000 fans came to show their appreciation for the Leeds and South African legend.

Benni McCarthy

Benedict Saul 'Benni' McCarthy was born 12 November 1977 and is a former South African international who has played for several clubs in Europe, including FC Porto, Blackburn Rovers and West Ham United.

McCarthy holds the record for the most international goals scored by a South African. He is Bafana Bafana's all time top scorer with 32 goals.

McCarthy made the headlines while playing in Portugal for FC Porto under Jose Mourinho and he won the Golden Boot award with 20 goals in 23 games, becoming the first South African to win Europe's most prestigious club competition - the UEFA Champions League.

McCarthy made 111 appearances for Porto between 2001 and 2006, scoring 53 goals. In 2006 he moved to English Premier League club Blackburn Rovers for £ 2.5 million and in his first season ended up as runner-up with 18 goals for the season - Didier Drogba was top scorer with 20 goals.

In his first three seasons in England, McCarthy scored 52 goals for Blackburn Rovers in 140 appearances in all competitions. In 2010 a move to West Ham United followed, but injuries and a struggle with weight saw the South African striker only make 14 appearances in all competitions and not scoring a single goal.

McCarthy moved back to South Africa where he played for South African PSL team Orlando Pirates. Apart from the unsuccessful spell at West Ham United, McCarthy had a good three seasons at Rovers where the world took notice of the Bafana Bafana striker's goal scoring form. No doubt Benni is one of South Africa's greatest ever strikers too represent South Africa in the English Premier League.

Steven Pienaar

Steven Pienaar was born 17 March 1982 and is a former South African international and captain who currently plays for Everton.

Pienaar played for several different clubs in Europe before settling at Everton - those clubs were Borussia Dortmund, Ajax and Tottenham Hotspur. Pienaar is a product of the School of Excellence and Ajax Cape Town of South Africa.

Pienaar has great footballing attributes - eagle-eye vision, precise passing and a high work rate, are just some of the main of attributes of the former Bafana Bafana and current Everton midfielder.

Pienaar has become a household name at Everton, displaying his acumen in the final third. During the 2010 World Cup Pienaar entered the tournament as South Africa’s most prominent player. He was the creative force behind South Africa's attack and the man to carry South Africa through the group stage.

Pienaar can be deployed as a attacking midfielder or a winger and regularly features for Everton on the left wing, where his work rate and ability to cut in to the inside and use his right foot to cause damage to opposing teams who tend to keep a deeper defensive line.

He has an fantastic work rate, and his link up play with Everton left-back Leighton Baines is regarded as one of the best partnerships in the Premier League. Pienaar has become an influential player for Everton down the years, as he was voted Everton Player of the Season in 2009/10 season.

Everton also signed him back for £4.5 million from Tottenham Hotspur, when injuries and loss of form saw him play from the bench most of the season at White Hart Lane. On his return to Everton in the January transfer window and regaining his form which made him one of Goodison Park's darlings, he played 14 matches in all competition and made six assists - the most out of anyone at Everton the whole season as well as scoring four goals, for Everton.

Currently in his sixth season, Pienaar has played 190 games for Everton in all competitions and has scored 23 goals in all competitions.

While their are a host of South Africans playing in Europe (Kagisho Dikgacoi playing for Crystal Palace in the Premier League, Daylon Claasen for Lech Poznan in Poland and Tekelo Rantie who recently signed for Bournemouth in England) and doing well, those who play and have played in the Premier League are seen as the footballers who have reached the top and who pave the way forward for the next generation of aspiring South African football stars.

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Topics:
Steven Pienaar
Benedict McCarthy
Benedict McCarthy
Football

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This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of GiveMeSport.com or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. GiveMeSport.com and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

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