AFCON 2022: Greatest African footballers ranked, featuring Drogba, Toure, Essien & Eto'o


The African Cup of Nations kicks off today in Cameroon as the hosts take on Burkina Faso in Olembé.

Twenty-four teams are primed and ready to battle it out for continental glory with some of the biggest stars in the world returning to represent their homelands.

The likes of Mohamed Salah, Riyad Mahrez, Achraf Hakimi, Abdou Diallo, Yves Bissouma and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, to name but a few, are all poised to set the tournament alight.

The historic championship often doesn’t get the respect it deserves, but you can be certain that fans from across the globe will be tuning in as the continental carnival gets underway today.

AFCON has played host to some of the finest footballers to ever kick a ball about, and will continue to do so for generations to come.

So, on a stage where so many have shone so brightly, the question has to be asked; who is the greatest AFCON, and African, star ever? 

Well The Mirror have done their best to answer that very question and come uo with a pretty definitive answer.


Enter Giveaway

The ten greatest AFCON stars in history 

10. Yaya Toure

Capped 101 times for the Ivory Coast, Yaya Toure was a a crucial member of what was considered to be the nation’s golden generation.


After two painful second place-finishes, Toure helped his country claim a long awaited title in 2015.

His performances at club level in Europe, were pretty special as well.

9. Nwankwo Kanu 


Kanu never actually won an AFCON title as his Nigerian side took up the mantle of ‘bridesmaids but never the bride’ with alarming efficiency.

However, his incredible talent and unorthodox style of play simply can’t be ignored and the fact that he won the Champions League and multiple Premier League titles highlights just how good he was.

8. Jay-Jay Okocha


‘So nice they named him twice.’

Okocha’s AFCON career spanned well over a decade as he went from title winner in 1994 to leading goalscorer in 2004.

A technically supreme player, Okocha was just an absolute joy to watch.

7. Michael Essien 


The Chelsea battle axe was a mainstay in the Ghana midfield for many a year.

Sadly, however, Essien could never haul the Ghanian side to AFCON glory, finishing as a runner up in 2010.

6. Andre Ayew ‘Pele’

What do you expect from someone named after Pele?

The Ghanian, named as one of the top three greatest African players of all time, won the AFCON title in 1982 and was named player of the tournament in 1992.

His three sons have all become full Ghana internationals as well.

5. Essam Al-Hadary


The legendary Egyptian showstopper was always going to rank highly on this list.

A four-time AFCON winner, Al Hadary earned a staggering 159 caps for the Pharaohs.

At the ripe old age of 45, he became the oldest player to ever take to the field at a World Cup as he strapped on the gloves in 2018.

4. Didier Drogba


Considering the standard of the Ivory Coast team, on paper at least, that Drogba played for, it always comes as a surprise to realise he never actually won a major title with his country.

Drogba retired one year before their 2015 triumph but it doesn’t change the fact that he is one of the greatest African footballers to ever live.

While his club exploits easily overshadow his efforts with the national side, he will always go down as an Ivorian legend.

3. Samuel Eto’o


The favourite son of this year’s host nation.

There’s just something iconically historic about images of Eto’o in the colours of Cameroon.

The four-time African player of the year won four AFCON’s and enjoyed a storied career at club level in Europe.

He is also the top scorer in the history of the continent’s showpiece event.

2. Roger Milla 


How could we not include the Cameroonian great?

At the 38 years of age, Milla drove his country to become the first African nation to make the quarter finals of a World Cup.

Named the best African player of the last 50 years in 2007, Milla won two AFCON tiles during his peak decade – the 1980’s.

1. George Weah


The only African footballer to ever win the Ballon d’Or, Weah was always going to be top of this list.

Known as ‘King George’, Weah was never quite able to get his hands on an AFCON title, as, coming from the tiny nation of Liberia, it always proved a bridge too far.

However, after being named the greatest African player of the 20th century and with a glut of European domestic titles to his name, Weah simply had to come out on top.

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