Top 10 African imports in the Premier League

  • Transfers
  • By Barney Whitehall


In the summer 2000 Lauren joined Arsenal from Mallorca for £7.2 million. His main position was right back but he could also cover midfield. Lee Dixon came to the end of his career and Lauren showed more promise than Oleg Luzhny, this meant he became a regular at right back in the 2001/02 season. Arsenal won the double that season with Lauren integral.

But his best achievement, which many will know, came in the 2003/04 season or ‘The Invincibles’ campaign. His performances went under the radar but he played 32 times out of 38 and was certainly a key part of the XI. He became an Arsenal favourite when he was involved in a tussle with Rudd Van Nistalrooy, who had aided in getting Patrick Vieira, sent off earlier in the game. He stepped up and smashed his penalty against the bar in the 88th minute. Lauren won the FA cup 3 times and the Premier League twice.



A prolific goalscorer in his time. Successful spells at Portsmouth, Middlesborough, Everton and Blackburn. He became a household name among Premier League fans and managed 96 goals in the league, the second highest African scorer of all time, Didier Drogba being number 1. His quality of finishing and laid back approach made him an instant hit with all the teams he played for. He accumulated over £23 million in transfer fees and Everton broke their transfer record at the time when they signed him for £11.25 million.

Yakubu got his highest goal tally for a single season, and also became the first Everton player since Peter Beardsley to score 20 goals in a season. The chant ‘Feed the Yak and he will score’ became a favourite. His achievements include reaching the UEAFA cup final with Middlesbrough, finishing 5th with Everton and his 28 premier league goals for Portsmouth over two seasons was a club record.


Emmanuel Adebayor

87 Premier League goals to his name, which is still rising every week. A temperamental figure, but when on his game he is unplayable. Tall, strong, very good in the air and skilful are some of the words to describe the Togo International. He scored 24 Premier League goals in a single season for Arsenal, winning him the coveted title of BBC African footballer of the year.

He had a reasonably successful spell at Man City, but again his temperament got the better of him and he moved to Tottenham. He scored 17 in 24 for Spurs meaning they took him on a permanent basis. He has recently come back into the team having previously fallen out with AVB. He has scored 5 goals in 7 games and is very much in the plans of Tim Sherwood to date.


Joseph Yobo

A £1 million in 2001, he was David Moyes first ever signing for Everton, 196 appearances later, David Moyes must have been happy with the return and price that he got Yobo for. He became one of Everton’s most important and consistent players, playing every minute of the 2006/2007 season. He held the record for appearances from an overseas player till 2012 and was made captain in 2008 when he chose to extend his contract at Goodison and turn down a move to Arsenal.


Jay-Jay Okocha

Whatever team you supported you just couldn’t not love Jay-Jay. At one point the most expensive African player of all time. When he joined Bolton in 2002 many thought his best years were behind him and people questioned his big contract. But he let his feet do the talking, some incredible tricks which are still posted around social media to this very day, a few goals and some sparkling performances explained why Bolton shelled out a big wage for him.

Bolton shops started printing ‘Jay-Jay, so good they named him twice’ He won goal of the season with a stunner against West Ham and was crucial to Bolton’s survival in 2003. He was made captain in 2004 and led Bolton to their first cup final in 9 years.



His goal scoring record was far from prolific with 44 goals managed in 197 games but his influence on the Arsenal team and his link up with others was second to none. He seemed to be struggling to deal with the pace of the Premier League and many thought he wouldn’t adapt. He was quick to change those opinions scoring 4 in 4 games coming off the bench in all of those games.

Kanu was named African Footballer of the Year for the second time in 1999, and in 1999–2000 he scored 17 times in 50 matches for the Gunners, including a hat-trick in fifteen minutes against Chelsea to turn a 2–0 deficit to a 3–2 victory. This made him an instant hero amongst the arsenal faithful. Kanu won the double, the fa cup and managed 10 games in 2004 which was the quota for another Premier League success for the Nigerian.


Kolo Toure

One of Arsene Wengers most canny signings, bought from ASEC from native Ivory Coast for a fee of £150,000, he is still considered one of the best bargains in Premier League history. Originally a striker, he was fast, strong and very good on the ball. He was mainly a utility player in his first two seasons but it was again ‘The Invicibles’ season where he began to emerge.

Forming a formidable partnership with Sol Campbell, Toure played all but one game in the entire season. He was known for his occasional bursts out from centre back, galloping forward, rolling back the years from when he operated as an attacking threat rather than a defender. He was also terrific in Arsenal’s pursuit of the Champions League only for them to lose in the final. He had a fairly unsuccessful career at Man City and now plays for Liverpool.


Michael Essien

Involved in one of the longest transfer sagas to date, Chelsea eventually paying £24.4 million for his services. 2006 was his breakthrough season and after a string of brilliant performances he became the first African in the Premier League to be nominated for FIFA player of the year and Ballon D’Or in the same season. He scored some terrific goals in his time, notably a volley against Barcelona in the 2008 controversial 1-1 draw and also a late equaliser against Arsenal to preserve Jose Mourinho’s impeccable home record.

On 10 October 2007, he was nominated[38] for the prestigious 2007 FIFA World Player of the Year Award for the third consecutive year and on 21 October 2007 Essien was also nominated for the 2007 Ballon d’Or Award for the third consecutive year as well. He was voted 15th Best Player in the World at the 2007 FIFA World Player of the Year Awards. On 12 December 2007, Essien was nominated for the 2007 African Footballer of the Year a third consecutive time he had been nominated. He won the Premier League 2 times, the FA cup 3 times and played in the Champions League final in 2008.


Yaya Toure

Joining in 2010 to link up with his brother. He’s played over 30 games in all three of the seasons he has been with Man City, an impressive feat considering the competition for places at the club. This season to date has arguably been his best, managing 11 premier league goals with over half the season remaining.

He was part of the title winning side, scoring two away at Newcastle, who sat in 4th postion at the time. The first being a stunning 25 yard low side foot finish, it was considered one of the crucial games in their title charge that season. He is the ultimate box to box midfielder, brilliant in attack and defence and somehow did not make the FIFA team of the year to the dismay of most football fans. He also won the BBC African player of the year in 2013.


Didier Drogba

Few will be surprised to see Drogba at the top of the list. The highest scoring African in Premier League history, part of the prestigious 100 club in the Premier League with the likes of Owen, Henry and Shearer. Another player who came at a hefty price of £24 million and surprisingly started very poorly at Chelsea, many thinking he would not have been worth all that money.

At his most prolific 29 league goals in 32 appearances in up there with some of the best seasons in history. He holds some incredible statistics, scoring in every game he played at Wembley as well as every cup final that he was part of. His crowning achievement being the Champions League final in 2012 where he stepped up to put away the winning penalty and give Chelsea their first ever Champions League. Drogba is still tearing defences apart at Galatasaray in the league and Champions League at the age of 25.

Barney Whitehall

Barney is an avid football fan, tired of searching the internet for original football related content. When he’s not writing top 10 lists you can find him on Twitter.

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