The final of the most prestigious club football competition in the world, the UEFA Champions League, is upon us again as Real Madrid battles Liverpool in Paris on Saturday.
And for the first time in the history of the tournament, Africa will have four of it’s best soccer talents on parade with the quartet Mohammed Salah, Sadio Mane, Joel Matip and Naby Keita are all likely to either start or play a part in the game.
Over the years, there have been African players who have lifted the trophy and ahead of today’s UCL final, Africa News Watch takes a look at the top 10 African players who have won the Cup for their European teams.
1. Samuel Eto’o
Without a shred of a doubt, former Cameroon striker, Samuel Eto’o, stands out as the undisputed greatest African player to have won the UCL having been three times winner, two with Barcelona and one with Inter Milan.
The current Cameroonian Football Association President who won the Afcon on two different occasions, stands out as the most decorated African player in Europe having played key roles in Barca’s double European success in the 2005/06 and 2008/09 seasons, becoming only the second player to score in two Champions League finals.
Eto’o was also on the winning side in the 2009/10 edition where he helped Jose Mourinho’s Inter to clinch the trophy.
2. Nwankwo Kanu
Former Super Eagles star, Nwankwo Kanu, aka Papillo, is unarguably Nigeria’s most decorated soccer star having played for some of the most prestigious clubs in Europe including Ajax, Inter Milan and Arsenal.
But it was while at Ajax that he joined the cream of African soccer icons to have lifted the European trophy.
While appearing for the Dutch giants, Papillo netted 24 goals in 35 appearances in the three seasons he played for the club before for moving to Italian outfit Inter Milan, where he hardly featured after undergoing surgery to replace an aortic valve in his heart.
Then Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger took a gamble and brought the precocious striker to England where he became a cult hero for both the club and the Super Eagles.
3. Didier Drogba
Didier Drogba will forever be remembered for almost singlehandedly transforming a below par Chelsea to a super power not only in England but in Europe as he was a key clog in the club’s most successful era after he joined them in 2004.
The Ivorian played a vital role in the Blues’ domestic success, helping them win four Premier League titles, four FA Cup titles and three League Cup titles.
But his best moment came in the 2011/12 campaign when he scored a decisive late equaliser in the Champions League final against Bayern Munich, before going on to score the winning spot-kick as the Blues claimed their first title in Europe.
4. Mohamed Salah
Egyptian captain Mohammed Salah was an influential part of the Liverpool squad that won the UCL title in in 2019 in the final against Tottenham Hotspur, netting an early penalty to set the tone for the eventual demolition of the Londoners.
It was a fitting compensation for Salah after the star forward ended up on the sidelines with an injury against Real Madrid in 2018.
Since his arrival at Liverpool, Salah has been phenomenal, winning four Golden Boots as well as propelling Liverpool’s return to prominence both in England and Europe.
5. Sadio Mane
The Senegal captain may be one of Liverpool’s most underrated striker but he has been one of the key protagonists in the Reds magnificent campaigns both in the league and in the Champions League in recent years, culminating in their success in 2019.
If his performance in the defeat of Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena was outstanding, his display in the final against Tottenham was out if this world, winning an early penalty which his compatriot nearly tucked in.
6. Yaya Toure
Former Ivory Coast midfielder, Yaya Toure was another influential African star who lifted UCL while with Barcelona in the 2008/2009 campaign, before sealing a deal to Manchester City where he helped the average club establish itself as one of Europe’s elite clubs.
Toure was a powerhouse in the middle for both clubs and country before calling it quits with football.
7. Michael Essien
The Ghanaian grafter was a no-nonsense and tough-tackling midfielder who, alongside Drogba and co, proved to be one of the keys to Chelsea’s success, helping the club to a plethora of trophies including a number of Premier League and FA Cups, and ultimately, the UCL.
Essien’s was part of the victorious Chelsea team that defeated Bayern Munich on penalties in the 2011/12 UCL campaign.
Although he was an unused substitute in that final, his impact at the London club was huge, especially as he helped fill the void left by Claude Makelele, who left the Blues in 2008.
8. Sammy Kuffour
Another Ghanaian on the list, most African football fans will always remember Samuel Kuffour as he cried and vented his anger on the green grass in the 1999 final after Bayern Munich lost to Manchester United.
But Ghanaian’s tears turned to joy two years later when he redeemed himself as the Bavarians clinched the title by beating Valencia on penalties.
Kuffour ended his illustrious career as one of Africa’s most decorated footballers, winning six Bundesliga titles, four German Cups, one Intercontinental Cup, and a Champions League title.
9. Bruce Grobbelaar
Bruce Grobbelaar, a former Zimbabwean goalkeeper, was certainly one of Africa’s most successful players, winning a number of trophies including six league titles, three FA Cups and the European Cup with Liverpool.
He was the first independent African player to lift the prestigious European Cup after the Reds defeated AS Roma in a penalty shootout.
10. Abedi Pele
The former Ghanaian captain, Abedi Pele, may have spent many years playing in Europe, but it was his spell at Olympique de Marseille that cemented his name as one Africa’s greatest ever players.
The then Black Star captain who won the African Player of the Year award on three different occasions, helped Marseille clinch three successive Ligue 1 titles during the 1990s and played a vital role in the French outfit’s European Cup triumph in the 1992/93 campaign.
CAF postpones 2023 Afcon to January 2024 due to weather concerns
The Confederation of African Football (CAF), has postponed the 34th edition of the African Nations Cup (AFCON), which was scheduled to hold between June to July of 2023 in Ivory Coast, to January and February, 2024.
The reason for the postponement, according to CAF President, Patrice Motsepe, is due to concerns over weather conditions in the West African country which experiences heavy rainfall during the period.
While addressing the CAF Executive Committee meeting in Rabat, Morocco, on Sunday, Motsepe said the decision was also to align the continent with the European football calendars.
Motsepe also said the decision was further motivated by weather concerns following a report by the Ivorian Meteorological Agency which predicted heavy rainfall in many parts of the country designated for the tournament.
The agency, in a report presented to CAF, had noted that Ivory Coast which has a tropical climate, has the peak of its rain season between June and July and most parts of the country is always at the height of the rainy season.
This is the second time the AFCON will be rescheduled at the beginning of the year since it was moved from January/February to June/July by former CAF President Ahmad Ahmad.
Nigerian ‘Last Stylebender’, Israel Adesanya, beats Jarred Cannonier to retain UFC middleweight title
Nigerian fighter, Israel Adesanya, “the Last Stylebender” , has retained his UFC middleweight title with a win via unanimous decision.
Judges scored the bout 49-46, 49-46, 50-45, all in favour of the Nigeria’s over his challenger, Jarred Cannonier in the UFC 276 bout which took place at the T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, Nevada this morning.
The 32-year-old Nigerian has now defended his middleweight championship for the fourth time after he defeated Kelvin for his middleweight interim title in 2019.
The ‘Last Stylebender’ he has defeated the likes of Robert Whitaker, Martin Vettori, Paulo Costa, Yoel Romero including his win against Jarod Cannonier.
Adesanya is one of top fighters of African descent in the UCF, the list includes Abu Azaitar was given the nickname Gladiator who holds a 14-1 MMA record, Sodiq Yusuff and Kamaru Usman who are both Nigeria and Cameroonian, Francis Ngannou, nickname: Predator.
Adesanya is reportedly set to a guaranteed purse of $1.8million from the fight after he earned around $1.1million in his last bout against Martin Vettori. UFC will earn approximately $82.5million from PPV sales and Israel will receive 30% of the PPV shares which could make this the highest earnings of his career.
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