Over the last few decades, Africa has produced some world-class football players and can be rightly considered the soccer continent of the future. The last twenty years witnessed rich talent from Africa moving to clubs in Europe and showing superb skills in international football competitions. These players bring something special to European football, presenting an energy and flair that are uniquely African.
West Africa is the region that has produced the finest talents, with Cameroon and Nigeria featuring some of the legendary players of the 1990s. Roger Milla, Jay-Jay Okocha, and Samuel Osei-Kuffuor are names that football fans will never forget. In the early 2000s, the progress continued with Senegal offering the world some of the best football talents like international team captain Bouna Coundoul. Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana came into the scene most recently, introducing young players like Abdul Razak and Christian Atsu.
Arsene Wenger, current manager of Arsenal, is a specialist when it comes to identifying young football talent. He has pointed out that West Africa is the region of the continent that has been offering exceptional soccer players. Historically speaking, Africa has provided the soccer world with stars such as Thomas Nkono, arguably one of the best African goalkeepers of all time and Hossam Hassan, one of the most capped African players with 169 international matches and 69 goals.
With the competitive nature of the sport and the amount of marketing that surrounds it, it’s not unusual that some of the highest paid footballers in the world are from Africa. The continent continues to surprise the world with football talent, and as the 2014 FIFA World Cup approaches, we may still be in for more surprises. Below is a list 10 of the highest-paid African soccer players this year.
10. John Obi Mikel – $6.1 Million in 2013
John Obi Mikel is a Nigerian football player who made his debut on the Nigerian international senior team on August 7, 2005. At the age of 18, Mikel was linked to a move for Manchester, but he ultimately joined Chelsea where he has remained as midfielder since 2006. He was also shortlisted for the 2012 African Footballer of the Year Award. Besides playing for the Premier League Club, John Obi Mikel has also competed in numerous tournaments, including the African Cup of Nations and the FIFA World Cup.
9. Michael Essien – $6.9 Million
Ghanaian professional footballer Michael Essien started his soccer career with Liberty Professionals in Ghana. After moving to France, he played for SC Bastia for three seasons with over 60 appearances. In 2005, he signed a deal for $24.4 million with Chelsea, becoming the highest-earning African footballer at the time. He has played for his national team competing for three African Cup of Nations tournaments and the FIFA World Cup in 2006. This season, Essien has been playing for Real Madrid, on loan from Chelsea.
8. Christopher Samba – $7.5 Million
After moving to Anzhi, the Congolese defender joined the list of the highest-paid African football players making over $160,000 a week. Prior to that, Christopher Samba played for the Blackburn Rovers in the Premier League for five years. He also had a brief spell with Loftus Road where he had 10 appearances in the Premier League before rejoining his Russian team, Anzhi Makhachkala, where he currently plays. Samba also earned a lot of money playing for Blackburn and QPR. He is one of the players on regular selection for the Congolese national team and has participated in many international games.
7. Kolo Toure – $7.8 Million in 2013
Besides his salary, Kolo Toure also has a lucrative boot deal with Adidas. After playing for Arsenal for 7 years, he moved to City and currently plays for Liverpool. The eldest of the Toure brothers, Kolo started his career as a football player in 2000 and has made 98 appearances for the Côte d’Ivoire national team. He has appeared in the African Cup of Nations and the FIFA World Cup competitions, playing alongside younger brother Yaya. The brothers make up the highest-paid pair of siblings in soccer.
6. Frédéric Kanouté – $8.4 Million in 2013
Frédéric Kanouté started his football career with Lyon in France, and moved to West Ham in 2000. He then moved on to Sevilla where he won two UEFA Cups consecutively in 2006 and 2007. In June 2012, Kanouté joined the Chinese club, Beijing Goan where he has been playing ever since. He also plays for the Malian national football team and has appeared in the semi-finals of the 2004 African Cup of Nations, also being among the selection for 2006 and 2010 editions of the tournament.
5. Emmanuel Adebayor – $13.5 Million
Born in Lomé, Togo, Emmanuel Adebayor has an estimated net worth of $25 million. He joined Tottenham in 2011 where he played for a season on loan from Manchester City. The Togolese player has a contract with Tottenham that is worth $268,000 weekly and lasts until 2014. He is known to be one of the most charitable players in the world with numerous projects back in his home country and around Africa in general. He recently started the charity known as the SEA Foundation which implements healthcare, education and economic empowerment projects across the continent.
4. Seydou Keita – $16.2 Million in 2013
After a successful four-year career with Barcelona, the midfielder from Mali moved to the Chinese side, joining the Chinese Super League club, Dalian Aerbin FC where he earns 12 million euros per year making him one of the highest-paid players in the Chinese Super League. Seydou Keita started his international career in 2001 with the Malian national football team and has since scored 19 goals for the club. Most recently, Keita appeared as Mali’s captain at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations where he scored in a 1-1 draw against hosts South Africa in the quarterfinals. Mali won the match in a shootout.
3. Didier Drogba – $17.5 Million in 2013
According to Sunday Times Rich List, Didier Yves Drogba Tébily has an estimated net worth of $33 million, quite far from the comparatively modest $10 million he takes home from Galatasaray of the Super Lig this year. Drogba has been an all-time top scorer for his National team of Côte d’Ivoire and has played for numerous other clubs, including Chelsea where he gained a lot of respect from both teammates and fans. At one point Drogba was earning $170,00 per week with Chelsea, and when his contract expired in 2012 he signed a deal worth $325,000 a week with Shanghai Shenhua F.C. At the beginning of 2013, he accepted an offer to play for Galatasaray for a fee of $5.2 million and a basic wage of $5.2 million per season. Drogba’s salary is good for over $20,000 per match, not to mention his multiple endorsements.
2. Yaya Toure – $20 Million in 2013
Currently playing for Manchester City, Yaya Toure is known for his ability to combine clear passing skills, technique and physical power on the field. He started his professional football career with the ASEC Mimosas Youth Academy team of Côte d’Ivoire in the mid 1990s. After relocating to Europe, he played for Baveren for two years. Other clubs he joined include Olympiacos (2005-2006), Barcelona (2008-2010), and Manchester City (2010-present). Toure has also played for his country in the African Cup of Nations and the World Cup.
1. Samuel Eto’o – $27 Million in 2013
Samuel Eto’o is currently the most valuable African footballers in the world with a net worth of over $50 million. Eto’o Fils began his career in 1997 wwith Real Madrid but he started really getting the attention of the crowd because of his unique playing style after joining RCD Mallorca. He played for Barcelona from 2004 to 2009 and later moved to Inter Milan. One of his great deals was the three-year contract with Anzhi, a Russian club owned by the Suleiman Kerimov, in August 2011; a contract that offered him $25 million per season. Not surprisingly, his move to Anzhi was considered to be highly motivated by the salary he was offered. He most recently signed a one-year contract worth with Chelsea and has multiple endorsement deals. He is one of the most highly decorated African players having won the African Player of the Year award 4 times during his career in 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2010.