Africa's greatest talent

Of all professions known worldwide, there is no other profession that offers as many rags- to -riches stories as football (also known as soccer). Many players who are viewed as celebrities today, especially those from Africa, are from humble beginnings. Because of football’s lucrative benefits, many young people today aspire to be full- time footballers when they grow up.

The vast majority of African players who have made it big started out playing for their local teams on the African continent before attracting attention from prestigious football clubs with eye-watering large contracts. Ayiba gives you a list of some of Africa’s professional players, including those poised for bright futures but still playing for local African clubs.

African Footballers playing in Europe

Seydou Keita

KIV14 DONETSK (UCRANIA) 11/4/2011.- El jugador Malí del FC Barcelona Seydou Keita asiste a una rueda de prensa antes del entrenamiento celebrado en Donetsk, Ucrania, hoy lunes 11 de abril de 2011, en la víspera del partido de vuelta de los cuartos de final de la Liga de Campeones frente al FC Shakhtar Donetsk. EFE/Sergey Dolzhenko

The Malian midfielder plays for Roma FC in Italy. A natural leader, Keita was an important member of Barcelona for four years. He signed for the Catalan club after having impressed at Sevilla and in the French Ligue 1. He returned to Spain to play for Valencia after a year in the Chinese Super League. According to some sources, Keita earned a reported $16million before tax in his year with Chinese Super League club Dalian Aerbin FC.

John Obi Mikel

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A pivotal figure and captain of the Nigerian Super Eagles, the Chelsea midfielder made headlines as an eighteen year- old playing for Norwegian club Lyn Oslo. In 2005 both Manchester United and Chelsea announced the signing of eighteen’’ year-old Mikel in what would become a protracted transfer saga. It was eventually settled in 2006 with Chelsea paying Lyn Oslo just £4million, whilst Manchester United received £12million without the player ever having played for them. The Nigerian has achieved great success at Chelsea winning the Premier League and Champions League amongst others, and reportedly earns $5million a year.

The Touré Brothers

One of football’s highest paid siblings, Yaya and Kolo Touré have enjoyed great success on the soccer pitch. Kolo has played for three of England’s biggest clubs Arsenal, Manchester City, and Liverpool. He also has a lucrative sponsorship deal with Adidas and is an integral player for the Côte d’Ivoire national team. 

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His younger brother Yaya plays as a holding midfielder for Manchester City and is the captain of the Ivorian national team.  Voted African Footballer of the Year for 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014.Yaya began his playing career at Ivorian club ASEC Mimosas, where he made his debut at age eighteen. His performances attracted attention from Europe leading to impressive stints with Beveren, Metalurh Donetsk, Olympiacos, and AS Monaco before moving to Barcelona in 2007. He played over 70 matches for the famed Spanish club and was part of the historic 2009 Barcelona side that won six trophies in a calendar year. In 2010  Yaya Touré moved to Premier League club Manchester City where he scored a number of key goals for the Citizens – most notably the only goals in the 2011 FA Cup semi-final and final.

The Ayew Brothers

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Another famous pair of soccer siblings, the Ayew brothers, Jordan and Andre have enjoyed success in France. Sons of the famous Abedi Pele Ayew, the brothers also play for the Ghana national team. The younger of the two, Jordan Pierre Ayew, plays as a striker for English Football League Championship club Aston Villa.  Older brother Andre, who many regard as the more successful of the two, plays for Swansea City in the English Premier Soccer League. He has captained the Ghana National Team.

Riyad Mahrez

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 28: Riyad Mahrez of Leicester City during the Barclays Premier League match between Leicester City and Manchester United at The King Power Stadium on November 28, 2015 in Leicester, England.  (Photo by Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images)

Born in 1991, Riyad Mahrez now plays for English club Leicester City and the Algerian national team as a winger. Mahrez began his career as a youth player for French club AAS Sarcelles. He turned professional in 2009 with Quimper, where he played for only one season before moving to Le Havre. He spent a total of three years with Le Havre, initially playing for their reserve team and then becoming a first-team regular. In January 2014, Mahrez signed for English team Leicester City, helping them win the Football League Championship and promotion to the Premier League at the end of his first season. During the 2015–16 season, he was the Algerian Footballer of the Year, the PFA Players’ Player of the Year, and was a member of the Premier League PFA Team of the Year as he helped Leicester City win the Premier League. Mahrez made his international debut for Algeria in 2014 and represented them at the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations. 

African Players Playing for African Clubs

Khama Billiat

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The Zimbabwean currently plays as a midfielder for Premier Soccer League club Mamelodi Sundowns in South Africa and Zimbabwean national team. He has previously played for Ajax Cape Town in South Africa and Caps United in Zimbabwe. According to unofficial sources twenty-five year old Khama Billiat is the highest paid footballer in the South African Premier Soccer League. He was named the 2015/16 soccer star of the year at an awards ceremony where he walked away with three top awards. After this season, his best to date, many reports have surfaced alleging a potential move to the European football circuit.  We wait to find out what this summer’s transfer window holds for the immensely popular Khamaldinho (as he is affectionately called by supporters).

Keagan Larenzo Dolly

keaganSouth African Keagan Larenzo plays as a midfielder for the South African National football team and Mamelodi Sundowns in the Premier Soccer League. He won the Premier Soccer League Young Player of the Season award for the 2013–14 season after showing great performances and becoming a key player for the club. He is posed for a great future on the soccer field.

Samuel Afful

Samuel Afful is a Ghanaian professional footballer who currently plays for Sekondi Hasaacas in the Ghana Premier League.  Afful has played for several Ghanaian teams and is currently playing with Sekondi Hasaacas as a forward. He was instrumental in the African Under 20 Championship in Senegal in 2015 where he helped Ghana achieve third- place. He is one of the players poised for a breakthrough in the not- so- distant future.

Christian Pyagbara

Nigerian- born player Christian plays as a striker for Sunshine Stars in Nigeria. Yaya_Touré no.wikipedia.org In January 2014, the late Stephen Keshi, then Super Eagles Coach, invited him to be a part of the Nigeria national football team squad for the 2014 African Nations Championship. He helped the team to a third-place finish after Nigeria beat Zimbabwe by a goal to nil. He was outstanding during the African Youth U 20 Championships in Senegal in 2015, helping the Super Eaglets to triumph and World Cup Qualification. He is one for the future.