Glory Magazine: All-time Africa 11

It was arguably the defining moment of last season's incredible Premier League title race. Leicester City were already a goal up at the Etihad Stadium when Riyad Mahrez bamboozled the Manchester City defence with a quick step-over, before lashing an unstoppable shot past Joe Hart to put the visitors 0-2 ahead. It was a moment of magic from the unlikely champions' most naturally gifted player, and the latest contribution to the Premier League from an extraordinary African footballer.

From Mahrez and his Leicester colleagues Ahmed Musa and Islam Slimani to Arsenal's Alex Iwobi and Manchester City's Kelechi Iheanacho, African footballers continue to mesmerise and enthrall fans on these shores. It's been the case across Europe for decades. 

With Egypt and Cameroon squaring off in the Africa Cup of Nations final this weekend, the Glory team wanted to celebrate the greatest ever African footballers – from dominant, Champions League-winning centre halves to unstoppable, jet heeled forwards. We've selected our starting 11 from the greatest African footballers of all time, plus seven world-class subs. We had to make some tough decisions, and undoubtedly, some truly incredible players are unlucky to have missed out.

It's a list that's bound to divide opinions. Who have we overlooked? Who doesn't deserve their place? And who are the most exciting African footballers still playing the game today? We'd love to hear from you, so leave your comments below. 

The Glory Team

Words: Louis Rossi
Illustrations: Ben Farr - Website / Instagram

GK: Vincent Enyeama (Nigeria)

Nigeria's Vincent Enyeama is unarguably the finest African goalkeeper of the last decade. The journeyman stopper has played for numerous European and African club sides, has earned over 100 caps for his nation and famously kept an astounding 11 consecutive clean sheets for Lille during the first half of the 2013/14 Ligue 1 season. Enyeama also captained his nation to victory at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations, adding his name to the history books. 

RCB: Samuel Kuffour (Ghana)

It takes a special kind of player to lock down a place in the Bayern Munich backline. Ghana's Samuel Kuffour did that and then some, becoming an integral member of the Bavarians' defence during an 11-year stint at the club. Powerful and athletic, Kuffour's presence at the back helped Bayern enjoy a period of domestic and European dominance as he added a Champions League winner's medal and an incredible six Bundesliga titles to his own personal collection. Kuffour punching the turf in frustration as Manchester United came from behind to overcome his Bayern Munich side in the 1999 Champions League final remains one of the most iconic images in club football.

CB: Kolo Touré (Ivory Coast)

The elder of the two Touré brothers enjoyed a late career revival towards the end of the 2015/16 Premier League campaign, putting in some impressive performances for Jurgen Klopp's transitional Liverpool side. Touré was a part of the Premier League furniture for such a long time that it's easy to overlook his influence on the game – he was a key member of the Arsenal 'Invincibles' squad that finished the 2003/04 season unbeaten, he captained Manchester City under Mark Hughes as they established themselves as a top-four side and won the Premier League twice, the FA Cup three times and the Africa Cup of Nations in the course of a highly decorated career. The SPL title seems certain to be next.

LCB: Noureddine Naybet (Morocco)

Atletico Madrid aren't the only team to have upset the La Liga hegemony in recent history. Roll back to the turn of the century and you'll see a lone league triumph for Deportivo La Coruña – the Deportivo of Noureddine Naybet. For Deportivo, the 1999/00 La Liga season was a historic triumph – it was their first ever La Liga title, achieved at the expense of the Barcelona side of Figo, Kluivert, Litmanen and Rivaldo and following a prolonged period of third and second-placed finishes. The indomitable Moroccan at the back helped to ensure Depor conceded just 44 goals during the '99/00 season. In the span of a long and productive career, Naybet became Morocco's record appearance holder and represented his country in two World Cups. 

CDM: Michael Essien (Ghana)

Midfield destroyers rarely enjoy much time in the limelight, but Ghana's tough-tackling Michael Essien was never short of praise during his time in England. The Chelsea enforcer was a favourite of Jose Mourinho's, and became a key member of a strong African contingent during the Portuguese's first stint at the club – joining the likes of Didier Drogba, Solomon Kalou and John Obi Mikel in the dressing room. Wherever Essien went, silverware followed: two Ligue 1 titles with Lyon and two Premier League titles, four FA Cups and a Champions League with the Blues barely scratches the surface of his personal trophy haul. Chelsea fans named him the club's player of the year in 2007, too – no mean feat for a defensive midfielder playing behind the likes of Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard and Nicolas Anelka. 

RCM: Yaya Touré (Ivory Coast)

Some seemingly disinterested performances for Manchester City and a couple of off-field diva moments shouldn't detract from the career of one of world football's great box-to-box midfielders. Touré is versatile enough to have played at centre back for Pep Guardiola's Barcelona and at no.10 under Manuel Pellegrini at City, but his finest performances come from square in the middle of the park. During the 2013/14 season Yaya scored 20 goals from central midfield, powering City to a second Premier League title in three years. 20 league goals is a good return for a striker, let alone a player who spends the majority of each game 50 yards from the goalmouth. At times Touré's blend of power and skill has been simply irresistible.

LCM: Seydou Keita (Mali)

Those who question the impact of African football on the European stage need only look at Pep Guardiola's first Barcelona side. Seydou Keita was a key member of the team that won a historic treble in 2008/09, as were fellow africans Yaya Touré and Samuel Eto'o. This versatile Malian midfielder stayed with Barcelona long enough to pick up three La Liga winner's medals, two Champions Leagues and a pair of Club World Cups, alongside other trophies almost beyond measure. Keita is one of the most decorated African players of all time, and an underrated component in the engine room of one of world football's greatest ever club sides.

CAM: Abedi Pelé (Ghana)

Selecting just one no.10 for our all-time African 11 meant leaving another of the game's great playmakers on the bench, but in the end we had to opt for a man who has won the African Footballer of the Year award a remarkable three times. Abedi Ayew was so good that his countrymen nicknamed him 'Pelé', and the epithet stuck throughout his career. Ghana's answer to the great Brazilian was a classy playmaker whose performances for Marseille helped to win two consecutive French league titles and the Champions League. A man for the big occasion, Abedi Pelé Also won the Africa Cup of Nations with the Black Stars way back in 1982, before picking up the Golden Boot as the tournament's top scorer a full decade later.

RF: George Weah (Liberia)

Picking the greatest ever African forward line is no easy task, and some true legends of the game can count themselves unlucky not to have made our starting 11. One player who was never in any doubt, however, was Liberia's George Weah. The only African player to have won FIFA's prestigious Ballon d'Or, Weah was the complete striker – combining blistering pace and strength with unerring finishing and great technique. Weah had to step into the prodigious shoes vacated by Marco Van Basten at Milan, but he never missed a beat. Weah scooped two Serie A titles during his time at the San Siro, and also picked up an FA Cup while on loan at Chelsea. If that weren't enough to endear you to the great man, Weah is now a committed humanitarian in his native Liberia. 

 

LF: Samuel Eto'o (Cameroon)

Before there was MSN there was Henry, Messi and Eto'o. The prototype for Barcelona's three-pronged attack was every bit as destructive as the current configuration, with the trident hitting a centenary of goals between them during the treble-winning 2008/09 season. Eto'o was to be an integral cog in two treble winning sides, however – moving to Inter Milan as part of the deal that brought Zlatan Ibrahimović to the Camp Nou. Under Jose Mourinho the Cameroonian became a selfless foil for Diego Milito, pressing high up the pitch and working tirelessly for his teammates as Inter scooped an unlikely Serie A, Coppa Italia and Champions League treble in 2009/10. Few other forwards in history could alter their game so drastically and to such great effect.

CF: Didier Drogba (Ivory Coast)

Arguably the most gilded of the Ivory Coast's vaunted golden generation, Didier Drogba didn't become the formidable striker that terrorised defences across Europe until comparatively late in his career. Drogba was 26 when he arrived at Stamford Bridge, but just five years earlier the Ivorian was completing a switch from Le Mans to Guingamp for a mere £80,000. A late bloomer he may have been, but what a blossoming it turned out to be. Drogba's strength and stature made him well-suited to the Premier League, where he plundered 104 goals and won the Premier League Golden Boot twice. He also claimed four Premier League winner's medals, four FA Cup winner's medals and of course the Champions League in 2011/12.

Substitutes

Sub: Bruce Grobbelaar (GK, Zimbabwe)

As a player, Grobbelaar was one of the game's great characters. Eccentric and likeable, the Zimbabwean stopper featured in some of the great Liverpool sides – bagging six of the old First Division titles and winning the European Cup with the likes of Lawrenson, Hansen, Dalglish, Rush and Souness playing in front of him. Prone to the odd gaffe, Grobbelaar nevertheless became a legend on Merseyside. 

Sub: Stephen Keshi (CB, Nigeria)

As a player, Stephen Keshi was a dependable and inspirational centre back for Anderlecht and Nigeria, winning the Belgian Premier League title in 1991 and the Africa Cup of Nations in 1994. As a coach he was a true legend, becoming one of Africa's most influential and successful managers during his tenure as Super Eagles boss. Keshi sadly passed away in June 2016.

Sub: Lauren (RB, Cameroon)

Arsene Wenger, an early exponent of African football in Europe, converted Lauren from a winger into a full-back upon his arrival in England. The transformation proved incredibly successful, and Lauren became an ever-present in the now legendary Arsenal side that finished the 2003/04 Premier League season unbeaten.

Sub: Marc-Vivien Foe (CM, Cameroon)

Tragedy cut short Marc-Vivien Foe's career, the Cameroonian succumbing to a congenital heart condition during an international friendly in 2003. Before his untimely death, Foe was a powerful box-to-box midfielder and an inspiration for both club and country. Foe claimed back-to-back Africa Cup of Nations trophies with Cameroon, as well as Ligue 1 titles with two different French clubs. 

Sub: Jay-Jay Okocha (AM, Nigeria)

Sam Allardyce's Bolton side of the early '00s was studded with talent, but the undoubted shining light was Nigeria captain Jay-Jay Okocha. Okocha played daydream football, with his immense dribbling skills and range of flicks and tricks making him an absolute joy to watch. Okocha won the Africa Cup of Nations in 1994 with Nigeria and the 2001 UEFA Intertoto Cup with Paris Saint-Germain, but he's best remembered on these shores for his adventures with Big Sam.

Sub: Roger Milla (CF, Cameroon)

The legend that is Roger Milla is unlucky not to have made our all-time African starting 11. The Cameroonian is best known for being the World Cup's oldest ever goalscorer, netting against Russia in 1994 at the ripe old age of 42. Milla is far more than just a pub quiz answer, however – the prolific forward lifted the Africa Cup of Nations twice as a player, and was named African Player of the Year at both ends of his career – at ages 24 and 38. Living proof that class is permanent. 

Sub: Nwankwo Kanu (CF, Nigeria)

It's a testament to the strength of African football that a player with the skill of Nwankwo Kanu has to settle for a space on our bench. An Olympic gold medallist with his country, a Champions League winner with Ajax and a two-time Premier League winner with Arsenal, Kanu has a personal trophy collection most players can only dream of. Another member of the Arsenal 'Invincibles', Kanu is beloved by Gunners thanks to his timeless hat-trick against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in 1999.