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Africa’s Most Successful Exports To The English Premier League

Africa’s Most Successful Exports To The English Premier League
The English Premier League (EPL) has long been the pinnacle of professional football in Europe.
It’s the place where stars are born, and riches are earnt for those capable of earning a place in an EPL squad. England was arguably the world’s first hotbed of football and the game is still the number-one sport throughout the country. It’s therefore fantastic to see so many African-developed talents making the grade and adding something new to the EPL.
African exports to the EPL have been happening for multiple decades now, enhancing the skill and physicality of the English game immeasurably. 
This article is designed to celebrate the African stars that have graced the EPL and had the biggest impact on and off the field.

Didier Drogba

It is impossible to ignore the impact that Ivorian, Didier Drogba had on that Chelsea team. After joining the Stamford Bridge outfit in a £24m deal from French Ligue 1 side Marseille, Drogba would go on to clock up 224 competitive appearances for the Blues, eventually scoring a century of goals at an average of almost a goal every other game. Drogba’s power, pace and lethal finishing characterised Chelsea’s rise to the top of the EPL under the tutelage of boss, Jose Mourinho.
At the time of writing, Drogba has scored more goals for Chelsea than any other overseas import and was voted the club’s best player of all-time back in 2012. He helped the club to EPL title success, as well as a Champions League victory in 2012 and an FA Cup trophy in the same year.

Nwankwo Kanu

Forward, Nwankwo Kanu was one of the EPL’s most likeable characters. He arrived on the EPL scene after an impressive scoring record in Holland and then a relatively quiet impact in Italy’s Serie A. So, when Arsenal and Arsene Wenger opted to bring him to Highbury, there was uncertainty as to whether he could hack it in English football. Nevertheless, his fleet-of-foot and footballing brain more than made up for the Nigerian’s lack of pace, going on to score 30 times in 119 appearances for the Gunners.
Kanu would go on to play for two more EPL teams in the shape of West Bromwich Albion and Portsmouth, helping the latter to a shock FA Cup Final victory in 2008 against Cardiff City. He is also in a select group of players to have won the EPL, FA Cup, Champions League, UEFA Cup and an Olympic gold medal in his playing career.

Mo Salah

Egyptian forward, Mohamed Salah made early waves in his professional career in his home country with Al Mokawloon, before earning a move to Swiss outfit, FC Basel, for an undisclosed fee. His impressive displays in Switzerland and in the Champions League for his new employers attracted the attention of Chelsea, who promptly signed him. Unfortunately for Salah, he was only ever used sparingly by Blues boss Jose Mourinho and he was allowed to depart permanently to Roma in 2016.
His second bite at the EPL with Liverpool has been earth-shattering, scoring 70 goals in 100 competitive appearances for the Reds; including contributing to Liverpool’s 2019 Champions League success. His partnership with fellow African Sadio Mane has made Liverpool the most feared side in the EPL going forward. The duo have transformed Liverpool’s potency in the final third. Their firepower has blitzed EPL teams all season. So much so that the sportsbooks stopped taking wagers on them winning their first title in the 28-year history of the EPL well before the EPL action was paused by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Kolo Toure

Kolo Toure: An inspiration for Ivorian football for over 15 years
Kolo Toure was an absolute unknown when Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger snapped him up on a professional deal for the princely sum of £150,000 in 2002. Having played for the Ivory Coast senior squad since 2000, Toure was able to easily get a work permit and contribute from the 2002/03 campaign. It was in the 2003/04 season where Toure would really make his mark, partnering Sol Campbell at the heart of the Gunners’ defence. Toure and co. would go on to create history to help Arsenal to win the league, going the entire EPL campaign unbeaten in the process.
After a successful seven-year spell in North London, Toure moved to Manchester City and latterly Liverpool before finishing his career with Scottish Premier League (SPL) giants Glasgow Celtic.

Yaya Toure

Kolo’s brother Yaya also enjoyed a tremendous impact in the EPL, although his pathway to English football was a little less direct. After several seasons plying his trade in Belgium, Ukraine, Greece and France, Toure eventually secured a life-changing move to Spanish giants Barcelona. A hugely successful three-year stint at the Camp Nou saw him move to big-spending Manchester City in 2010 with a remit to help the blue half of Manchester to EPL silverware.
Sure enough, Toure would become the lynchpin in the City midfield, guiding them to their first league title in 44 seasons. 59 goals in 230 competitive appearance was quite an achievement for a box-to-box midfielder.

Lucas Radebe

The irony behind South African defender Lucas Radebe’s arrival at Leeds United was that he was only signed to provide companionship for his compatriot Phil Masinga, who passed away tragically in 2019 at the age of 49. The latter was thought to be a headline signing for the Whites, but a decade on, Radebe is the player that the Elland Road faithful were holding in the highest possible regard.
11 years later, Radebe had clocked up over 200 competitive appearances for Leeds and was a major part in United’s charge to the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2000. Radebe’s performances didn’t go unnoticed outside of Yorkshire too, with Milan, Roma and even Manchester United reportedly interested in his services at the time.

Bruce Grobbelaar

Radebe’s compatriot, Bruce Grobbelaar had already spent 11 years at Anfield prior to the formation of the EPL, but Grobbelaar still played a key role in the Liverpool side for another two years, eventually making 628 competitive appearances for the Reds. His flamboyant, charismatic style of play and persona endeared him to those on the Anfield Kop.
By the time Grobbelaar departed for pastures new and a two-year deal with Southampton, he had bagged six league championship medals, three FA Cup winners’ medals, three League Cup winners’ medals and a European Cup winners’ medal following an epic penalty shootout.

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