Into the fabric of Premier League football, African brilliance is intricately woven.
Some of that has come from the continent’s southern parts — think Peter Ndlovu, Bruce Grobbelaar, Steven Pienaar, Benjani Mwaruwari, and Lucas Radebe — but, for the most part, it has been a West African affair, featuring all the guys you’re probably thinking of right now: Anthony Yeboah, Didier Drogba, Michael Essien, Emmanuel Adebayor, Yakubu Aiyegbeni, Nwankwo Kanu, Kolo Toure, Yaya Toure, Sadio Mane, etc.
And it’s perhaps in the realm of goalscoring that the West has really asserted dominance, boasting seven of the nine Africans to have scored at least 50 Premier League goals: three Nigerians, two Ivorians, one Senegalese and a Togolese.
The other two, Egyptian Mohamed Salah and Riyad Mahrez of Algeria, are relatively new members of the club, with 62 and 50 goals respectively. Salah joined that elite company last season in Liverpool’s 4-3 win over Crystal Palace and has already gone 12 better, while Mahrez — the latest to reach the mark — did so on Tuesday when Manchester City dispatched Burnley 4-1.
The pair, however, represent an exception to the norm, as North Africans hitherto never really had significant impact on English football. Countries in that part of Africa rarely export their best talents — and, when they do, French-speaking lands are more probable destinations — which is perhaps why England hasn’t had too many gracing its top-flight.
Names like Adel Taarabt, Marouane Chamakh, Mido and Amr Zaki had us excited for a while, but it wasn’t until Salah and Mahrez — who, between them, have won all of the last three African Footballer of the Year prizes — that North African talent has truly set the Premier League alight.
Granted, either man is still a considerable distance from striking a century of goals — a milestone only Drogba has reached (and passed), and which Adebayor and Aiyegbeni fell just short of matching before bowing out — but that feat is hardly impossible to reach, if they stick around long enough; chances are that Mane — on 75 goals already — could get there quicker, of course.
However that particular race ends up, though, one thing is certain: North Africa has finally turned up at the party and is making its presence felt.
Kow Frimpong — Daily Mail GH