Liverpool’s Mo Salah is on course to become the most prolific African player in the Premier League’s history as he closes in on a century of Premier League goals. The Egyptian superstar currently has 98 goals in England’s top flight, the second-highest of all time, and he could become the 30th member of the Premier League’s 100 club this weekend.
He is a modern Premier League great who already has more goals to his name than Ruud van Nistlerooy, Kevin Phillips and Dennis Bergkamp, and was crucial in Liverpool’s first title in 30 years. But where does he truly rank amongst the Premier League’s greatest African players?
Well the man who still leads him in the scoring charts is the great Didier Drogba. He scored 104 league goals for Chelsea and was the talismanic force that typified Chelsea’s rise to domestic dominance under Jose Mourinho. If you wrote a story for the perfect club career, it wouldn’t be far off Drogba’s first stint at Stamford Bridge.
With four Premier League titles, four FA Cups and three League Cups to his name his record in major finals was outrageous. Out of ten finals, he scored nine goals and ended up with eight trophies including the most famous of the lot. The Champions League. He won that final in 2012 for Chelsea and it was his decisive spot-kick that gave the Blues their very first European Cup.
He is the most influential African footballer to ever play in England’s top flight.
Looking at the other African goalscorers in the division who almost made it to the 100 club, Emmanuel Adebayor on 97 may be a name that surprises a few. The controversial Togo international led the line for some of the strongest teams in the Premier League and scored plenty of goals for Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester City. His top flight career was defined by THAT celebration at the Etihad against Arsenal, but despite his goals, the fact he didn’t win a single trophy means his footballing influence in England is diminished.
Portsmouth, Middlesbrough, Everton and Blackburn Rovers got to enjoy the delights of Nigerian forward Yakubu, who for several years caused serious headaches for Premier League defenders. He bagged 95 goals in a stellar career, but again, he isn’t in the same conversation as Drogba.
One man who is now level with Yakubu in terms of goals, and a close colleague of Salah, is the ‘best player in the world’ Sadio Mane. The Liverpool forward will be desperate to hit a ton of goals over the coming weeks and could even beat Salah to that total as the two Reds players that compliment each other perfectly and have been so crucial to this modern era of success both close in on a huge milestone.
Another African to have had huge influence on the Premier League, since joining for just £450k, is Riyad Mahrez. PFA Player of the Year in Leicester City’s title-winning season, and two more titles since joining Manchester City, the Algerian has been a resounding success for two clubs, but will never be forgotten for his role in Leicester’s fairytale.
Away from forwards and goalscorers, City’s most popular African signing has to be Yaya Toure, who joined from Barcelona and was key in their progress during the 2010s. He may not have the goalscoring prowess of the aforementioned five, but he did put up one of the most ridiculous seasons for a midfielder as he bagged 20 goals and nine assists as City pipped Liverpool to the title. He was simply glorious to watch as City won three Premier League titles during his spell at the club.
Other more than honourable mentions go to Lucas Radebe, Kanu, Michael Essien, Jay-Jay Okocha and Kolo Toure and that special continent has produced some truly spectacular players that have lit up our top flight. As for the current goalscoring charts, Salah will overtake Drogba this season, but for pure influence on the Premier League, the Ivorian icon cannot be beaten.