1. Yaya Toure (Ivory Coast & Manchester City)
This midfield warrior became one of the highest paid players in the world when he joined Manchester City from Barcelona in 2010. He is used by City in a more advanced role than he was at Camp Nou and was one of the signings that truly represented City’s transformation into a major force. Yaya’s brother Kolo also plays his soccer at the Etihad Stadium.
2. Samuel Eto’o (Cameroon & Anzhi Makhachkala)
The most successful African soccer player of all time and one of the supreme strikers of the last 10 years, Eto’o made a headline grabbing move to Anzhi Makhachkala in August 2011. The ambitious Russian club wanted a marquee signing and Eto’o’s consistency for Mallorca, Barcelona and Inter Milan convinced them that he was their man. Eto’o possesses pace, power, aggression and a ruthlessness in front of goal that has helped ensure a trophy laden career.
3. Didier Drogba (Ivory Coast & Shanghai Shenhua)
Now in the autumn of his career, Drogba’s sheer physical presence and ability to batter defenders into submission will ensure that he can continue playing at a high level for a few years yet. Drogba has been a key protagonist in the Ivory Coast’s rise to prominence in recent years and he also helped Chelsea to three Premier League titles at club level before moving to Shanghai Shenhua in 2012.
4. Kevin-Prince Boateng (Ghana & AC Milan)
The mercurial Boateng impressed as Ghana reached the 2010 World Cup quarter-finals. He can operate behind the strikers or in a more orthodox midfield role, his dribbling and passing capable of slicing defenses wide open. He joined Genoa from Portsmouth after the tournament before moving to AC Milan on loan. After a productive 2010-11 season which saw Boateng’s three goals aid the club’s triumphant title challenge, his move was made permanent.
5. Mohamed Aboutrika (Egypt & Al-Ahly)
This elegant midfielder has superb vision and an eye for goal. He deserves to grace the game’s grandest stage but Egypt have not qualified for the World Cup since 1990. Now well into his 30s, Aboutrika concedes time is running out. The Al-Ahly star helped Egypt to 2006 and 2008 African Cup of Nations titles, scoring the winning goal in the latter edition.
6. Michael Essien (Ghana & Real Madrid)
Injuries have tormented Essien in recent years, but when fit and playing regularly, Essien is one of the best all-round midfielders in the business. The Ghanaian has curbed the reckless side that he displayed when arriving at Chelsea from Lyon in 2005, his marauding runs and cannonball shot making for more positive headlines. Essien’s arrival at Chelsea coincided with the most successful period in the club’s history.
7. Alex Song (Cameroon & Barcelona)
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger’s ability to seek out and sign talented youngsters at bargain basement prices is well known and he pulled off another masterstroke when signing Song as a teenager from French club Bastia. Now at Barcelona, Song is an excellent tackler with a penchant for going forward and contributing to attacks. Nephew of Rigobert Song, he has 17 sisters and 10 brothers.
8. Papiss Demba Cisse (Senegal & Newcastle)
Freiburg broke their transfer record to sign the striker from Metz in December 2009, and he delivered a solid return on the investment. Second top scorer behind Bayern Munich’s Mario Gomez in the 2010-11 Bundesliga season, Cisse’s goals ensured that the modest German outfit finished the season in mid-table. The Senegal international has pace to burn and those 22 strikes means he holds the record for goals scored in a single Bundesliga season by an African player. Joined Newcastle in January 2012.
9. Emmanuel Adebayor (Togo & Tottenham)
The controversial former Monaco, Arsenal and Real Madrid striker has a reputation for causing disharmony in the dressing room. But when motivated, his strength in the air and on the ground make him a handful for any defense. Possessing deceptive pace, Adebayor’s was at his best in the 2007-08 season when he scored 29 goals for Arsenal.
10. Gervinho (Ivory Coast & Arsenal)
Having made his name with Le Mans and Lille, who he helped win the 2010-11 French title with 15 goals and 10 assists, Gervinho made the move to Arsenal at the end of that season. The Ivory Coast frontman is at his best on the left side of a front three, tormenting full-backs with his pace and trickery.