The Greatest African Midfielders of all-time



No.5 Lakhdar Belloumi

A wonderfully gifted attacking midfielder, Lakhdar Belloumi is widely regarded as the greatest Algerian footballer of all-time, and one of the greatest African players of all-time.

Belloumi's probably not as well known as many other great players of his era because Algeria had a law at the time that forbade any player from leaving the country before the age of 27. So, despite interest in 1981 from a number of huge European clubs, including Barcelona, Belloumi had to reman in his homeland, playing for GCR Mascara. Whilst that ruling meant that we missed out on seeing him grace European football competitions, we were lucky enough to see him at Espana’82, immediately wondering who on earth this player was, and why we’d never heard of him before. Forming a fine attacking trident along with Salah Assad and Rabah Madjer they would have gone through the group stages if it wasn't for the events at the last match between West Germany and Austria, which became known as the Disgrace of Gijón.



No.4 Jay-Jay Okocha

If you were going to name the Greatest African footballer on talent alone, then Jay-Jay Okocha would probably be number one in the list. The Nigerian midfielder was outragously talented, right up there with the likes of Ronaldinho when it came to producing moments of magic with the ball that seemed to defy belief However, despite his talent Okacha never actually won the African Footballer of the Year Award and his list of honours is disappointingly thin, but one thing's for sure - Jay-Jay Okocha will be remembered by football fans across the globe for the sheer joy he brought to everyone who witnessed his incredible skills.



No.3 Abédi Pelé

Fantastic attacking midfielder who really came to prominence in the early 1990s as part of that exciting Marseille team who wowed fans across France and Europe with their swashbuckling brand of football. Making up Le Trio Magique alongside Jean-Pierre Papin and Chris Waddle, Abédi Pelé would be the only one of the three still at the club when it won the inaugural Champions League in 1993.



No.2 Michael Essien

A brilliant midfielder whose status would have been even higher if it wasn’t for the number of serious injuries that he sadly suffered in the second half of his career.

Michael Essien was still playing with his local side as a 16 year old when he had scouts across Europe suddenly scrambling for his signature following a number of stellar performances at the World U17 Championships, helping Ghana to finish in a fantastic third place. Manchester United tried to sign him but had his work permit refused and Essien ended up in France at Bastia. Having started out in a number of defensive roles, a move into midfield would see Essien establish himself in Ligue 1 and it wasn’t long before Paris Saint-Germain and Lyon were battling it out for his services, Essien opting for Lyon and immediately forming a fantastic midfield partnership with Juninho Pernambucano, the Brazilian’s playmaking skills complimenting Essien’s relentless box-to-box energy. Essien would win the Ligue 1 title in both his seasons at the Stade de Gerland.

José Mourinho’s big-spending Chelsea was the next stop for Michael Essien in 2005, the Stamford Bridge outfit splashing out £24.4m on him, breaking the record they’d paid out the previous summer for Didier Drogba.



No.1 Yaya Touré

A fantastic all-round player who was good enough to function brilliantly in a variety of roles, including centre-back (he won the 2009 Champions League playing there with Barcelona) and as a holding midfielder, but it's Yaya Touré's lungbursting surges up and down the pitch as a box-to-box midfielder for which we remember him most fondly. Having also won two La Liga titles during his three year spell at the Camp Nou, Manchester City made him one of their first really high-profile signings in 2010, teaming him up with older brother Kolo as they looked to break the grip that Manchester United and Chelsea had on the Premier League. It would prove to be an inspired signing as eight years later, when Toure departed the club, he did so with three Premier league winners medals, and he'd played a huge part in all of them. His form during his time at the Etihad would also see him win the African Footballer of the Year Award four years in a row, from 2011 to 2014, a feat that hadn't been done before, or since. And it wasn't just domestic glory that Toure would achieve, in 2015 he captained the Ivory Coast to only their second Africa Cup of Nations triumph, Les Éléphants beating Ghana on penalties.