Africa has contributed immensely to European football. The talent and quality of these Africans in the game has placed them among the most valuable players in the world.
These are the 12 most expensive African football players of all-time.
12) Jay-Jay Okocha (Nigerian) – £14 Million
Transfer (1998): Fenerbahce to Paris St-Germain
Okocha was signed by Paris St-Germain for £14 million following a prolific spell at Fenerbahce in which he scored 30 goals in 62 games from midfield. The Nigerian became a fan favourite in the French capital and acted as a mentor to a young Ronaldinho before he became a global superstar. Okocha left PSG after the 2002 World Cup and signed for Premier League Bolton. Jay-Jay became a cult hero of the Reebok faithful and was made captain after a year at the club. He also captained the Nigerian national team between 2002 and 2006 and has stated that he would like to be president of the Nigerian Football Association in the future.
=10) Samuel Eto’o (Cameroonian) – £21 Million
Transfer (2011): Inter Milan to Anzhi Makhachkala
The deal that took Eto’o to Anzhi saw him not only become one of the most expensive African footballers of all time, but saw him become one of the best paid players in the game. The Cameroonian signed a three-year deal worth €20-million a year, which made him the highest paid player in the world at the time. Eto’o had spent only two years at his previous club, Internazionale, but had won the treble in his first season, including the Champions League. The season before his transfer to Anzhi had also seen him score 37 goals, his record haul in a season. He enjoyed two relatively productive seasons with the Russian team before their billionaire owner, Suleiman Kerimov, drastically cut the amount he was willing to spend on the team. Since then Eto’o has played for Chelsea, Everton and Sampdoria, but is remembered more for his spells with Internazionale and Barcelona. He came third in the 2005 FIFA World Player of the Year and is the record goal-scorer for Cameroon.
10) Mehdi Benatia (Moroccan) – £21 Million
Transfer (2014): Roma to Bayern Munich
Roma paid €13.5-million to sign Benatia from Udinese in the summer of 2013. After a year starring in defence for Roma Benatia was subject to the interest of some of Europe’s biggest names including Real Madrid, Barcelona, Chelsea, Manchester City and Bayern Munich. Bayern eventually won the battle for the Moroccan international, paying Roma €26-million (£21m) for Benatia. He was vital at the heart of the Bayern defence as they defended their Bundesliga title and currently earns €4-million a year having signed a five year contract last summer. The Morocco defender Mehdi Benatia joined Bayern Munich from Roma on a five-year deal and was signed by Pep Guardiola. Benatia also plays for the Morocco national team.
=7) Yaya Touré (Ivorian) – £24 Million
Transfer (2010): Barcelona to Manchester City
Toure has played in a number of European leagues throughout his career, however he first came to prominence playing in France with AS Monaco. His performances there attracted the interest of Barcelona, who signed him from the Ligue 1 club for €10-million in 2007. During his time at the Catalan club he won seven trophies, with six being claimed during 2009. Toure lost his place in the Barcelona first team following Pep Guardiola as manager, resulting in the announcement he would leave the club at the conclusion of the 2010 season. Manchester City won the fight to sign Toure following his departure from the Camp Nou and he has been integral to the 2012 and 2014 Premier League champions since. The Ivorian international currently earns more than £200,000 a week, however following a disappointing season with Manchester City he has been linked with a move away from the club to Internazionale where his former City manager, Roberto Mancini, currently works.
7) Didier Drogba (Ivorian) – £24 Million
Transfer (2004): Lyon to Chelsea
Didier Drogba’s career could have been incredibly different but for West Ham’s relegation from the Premier League in 2003. The East London club had agreed a fee with Guingamp to sign Drogba if they remained in the Premier League. Instead the Ivorian remained in France for two more seasons and excelled in the Ligue 1, joining mega-rich Chelsea from Marseille rather than West Ham from Guingamp. Though Drogba was not prolific during his early years at Stamford Bridge, he soon became indispensable to the team. His crowning moment came during his final appearance during his first stay at the club, scoring the equaliser and winning penalty in the shootout as Chelsea beat Bayern Munich in the Champions League final. This was followed by a spell in China with Shanghai Shenhua, where Drogba earned a rumoured £200,000 a week, and a season at Turkish giants, Galatasaray, before returning to Chelsea last summer. The Ivorian spent much of this season acting as back-up for Diego Costa, and announced before the last game of the season that he planned to leave the club for a second time for one more year of first team football. He has since been linked with a number of sides in the MLS.
7) Michael Essien (Ghanaian) – £24.4 Million
Transfer (2005): Lyon to Chelsea
Top of our list is one time winner of the BBC African Player of the Year award, Michael Essien. The Ghanaian became the most expensive African footballer of all time when Jose Mourinho signed him for Chelsea from Olympique Lyonnais in the summer of 2005. Essien had finished the previous season as the winner of Ligue 1 Player of the Year, which goes some way to explaining the size of the fee Chelsea were willing to pay. The Ghanaian’s time at Chelsea was very successful, winning the Premier League twice, FA Cup four times and Champions League, as well as being named Chelsea Player of the Year in 2007. The latter period of his time in the Premier League saw him struggle with injury and he spent the 2013 season on loan at Real Madrid, linking up again with Jose Mourinho. He signed for Panathinaikos this month following a year and a half at AC Milan where he managed only 22 appearances for the struggling giants of Serie A in all competitions.
6) Yannick Bolasie (Congolese) – £24.5 Million
Transfer (2016): Crystal Palace to Everton
Congolese, French-born and Everton winger Yannick Bolasie joined The Toffees in 2016 for a reported fee of £25 million; on five-year contract after leaving Crystal Palace. Bolasie also plays for the DR Congo national football team.
5) Emmanuel Adebayor (Togolese) – £25 Million
Transfer (2009): Arsenal to Manchester City
Adebayor had been one of the stars of the Arsenal team before he signed for Manchester City. Following a prolific season in 2008, in which the Togolese star scored 30 goals in all competitions and he earned his place in the PFA Team of the Year, he was linked with a €38-million move to AC Milan and Barcelona. Adebayor did not find the same form the following season, and Arsenal decided to sell him to nouveau riche Manchester City for a reported fee of £25million. The Togolese international earned £180,000 a week during his time at Manchester City, but failed to establish himself during his two years at the club and spent a spell on loan at Real Madrid. He would go on to agree a season-long loan at Tottenham, finishing the season as their top scorer, which saw the North London club agree a deal for the striker worth just £5-million. Adebayor was still earning £80,000 a week from City until the end of this season as part of the deal that saw him head to the capital.
4) Wilfried Bony (Ivorian) – £28 Million
Transfer (2015): Swansea City to Manchester City
Bony’s move to Manchester City has not worked out thus far. The Ivorian appeared only twelve times for the reigning Premier League champions following his move from Swansea City in January, and scored only two goals. Bony had been prolific for the Welsh club since joining them from Vitesse in 2013, scoring 34 goals in 73 games in all competitions. He had been chased by a number of Premier League teams before joining the Swans following a season for Vitesse in 2013 that had seen him named Eredivisie Player of the Year and top scorer. When transfers are counted in Pound Sterling rather than Euros, Bony is the second most expensive African player in history as add-ons could see his transfer from Swansea rise from £25-million to £28-million. If his time at the club continues as it has started however, he is unlikely to activate those clauses.
3) Islam Slimani (Algerian) – £28 Million
Transfer (2016): Sporting CP to Leicester City
In 2016, Leicester City set a club record when they signed Algeria international Islam Slimani. The club paid a reported transfer fee of £28 million to Portuguese club Sporting CP. While at Sporting, Slimani scored 48 goals in 82 games for Sporting.
2) Eric Bailly (Ivorian) – £30 Million
Transfer (2016): Villarreal to Manchester United
Ivorian footballer Eric Bailly joined English club Manchester United in 2016 for a reported transfer fee of £30 million; on a four-year contract from Villarreal. Bailly was the first player new manager Jose Mourinho signed.
1) Sadio Mane (Senegalese) – £34 Million
Transfer (2016): Southampton to Liverpool
Senegalese Sadio Mane and former Southampton player became Africa’s most expensive player ever after joining English club Liverpool in 2016 for a reported fee of £34 million ($45.5 million). In 2014, Mane signed a four-year contract with Premier League side Southampton for £11.8 million.