In this feature, we profile the top 10 African players to have featured for either Manchester United or Chelsea. Ahead of the two sides’ showdown on Sunday, we’ve ranked the continent’s stars based on their contributions for either the Red Devils or the Pensioners and their broader contribution to the game.
Extra: Eric Bailly has started almost all of Manchester United’s games this season and become a fan favorite for his dazzling defensive performances game in , game out. Although he is playing in his first season at the Theater of Dreams, he has so far shown signs of becoming a legend at United hence his addition to the list.
10. Victor Moses squeezes into this top 10 after his recent resurgence under Antonio Conte. The forward-a Nations Cup winner with Nigeria in 2013-has endured a frustrating time at Chelsea where he has struggled to establish himself and had become a perennial loanee, but finally appears to have found his niche as a right wing-back under the Italian manager. He won the Europa League with Chelsea in 2012, but will he add to his trophy haul this season?
9. Samuel Eto’o arrived at Stamford Bridge in the twilight of his career but still showed glimpses of his ability in his 12 months at the club. Having played for Jose Mourinho at Inter Milan, he joined the Portuguese manager at the London-based side in 2013. He managed a memorable hat-trick in a 3-1 win over Manchester United, one of his better performances for the Blues.
8. Salomon Kalou was an underrated figure at Chelsea. His 36 goals in 152 appearances for the club in a six-year spell did not get the appreciation it deserved considering the Ivorian winger played mostly off the bench and was an effective force for the club. Yet another of the African players at Chelsea to score against United in a 1-1 draw in 2009.
7. Quinton Fortune: The injury-ravaged South African joined Manchester United in 1999, where he spent seven years as a part of Sir Alex Ferguson’s squad. He made 93 appearances in both midfield and defence, while netting six goals for the club.
6. Thanks to his reputation, George Weah gets a mention on this list. The only African to have won the Ballon d’Or, the Liberian powerhouse spent a successful year at Chelsea in 1999-2000. He scored on his debut and went on to contribute goals in that season’s successful FA Cup triumph.
5. Geremi Njitap, another Cameroonian on the list, spent three years at Stamford Bridge and won two Premier League winner’s medals under Jose Mourinho. A hardworking-if modest-operator, the former Real Madrid midfielder was primarily a squad player during his time at the club but one that was loved for his attitude and leadership skills.
4. Celestine Babayaro was a Chelsea favourite for eight years and endeared himself to the fans with his athletic displays, as well as his eccentric somersault goal-celebration. The only out-and-out defender to make the list, the Nigerian defender was voted one of the Blues’ best ever full-backs in a poll on Chelsea TV.
3. John Obi Mikel is only the second player on the list that still plays for Chelsea, having arrived at Stamford Bridge with a great deal of controversy after a tug of war with United. He’s had a long and distinguished career at Stamford Bridge, having won every competition worth winning in Europe. Despite not playing all too much in recent years, he has remained a loyal servant of the club.
2. Michael Essien arrived at Chelsea in a big-money transfer from Olympique Lyonnais, and his stay at the London club was nothing short of magnificent. The Ghanaian powerhouse redefined the defensive-midfield position as a whole and was also a very efficient full-back when needed. His 17 goals and 168 appearances speak for themselves, even if injuries ruined the latter stages of his career.
1. Didier Drogba has been voted Chelsea’s best-ever player by the fans. That in itself speaks volumes of the impact he made at the London outfit. Capable of the spectacular at any given moment, Drogba scored 136 goals in 381 appearances for the Blues and provided many a captivating displays in the famous blue shirt. He is a bona fide Blues legend and was the key figure in 2012 as the Pensioners became the first London club to win the Champions League.