From 30 to 1: The best African players in the Premier League right now

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Since the formation of the Premier League in 1992, a grand total of 272 African footballers have turned out for teams in the English top flight.

Peter Ndlovu was the first. The Zimbabwean striker made his debut in the re-branded division in August 1992. He was the pioneer who paved the way for the torrent of talent that followed after him.

Names such as Didier Drogba, Kolo Toure, Tony Yeboah, Jay-Jay Okocha, Nwankwo Kanu, Mustapha Hadji, Yakubu and Lucas Radebe soon arrived to light up the league and win trophies. Others were less successful but still attained the status of cult heroes. Think Mido, Amir Zaki – even El Hadji Diouf.

The riches of the Premier League also attracted living legends such as George Weah and Samuel Eto’o, winners of seven African Footballer Of The Year awards between them. While Asamoah Gyan, Benni McCarthy and Emmanuel Adebayor might not have quite matched up to their billing but they provided plenty of memorable moments of their own, all the same.

Ivorian football player Didier Drogba (L) and Cameroonian Samuel Eto'o take part in a press conference during the Africa Unity Experience at Michel Hidalgo stadium in Saint-Gratien, near Paris on May 28, 2010. AFP PHOTO BERTRAND LANGLOIS (Photo credit should read BERTRAND LANGLOIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Former Premier League strikers Didier Drogba and Samuel Eto’o.

In the list below, Squawka have ranked the top 30 African footballers currently active in the Premier League as of the start of the 2017/18 season. To qualify for inclusion, players must have made at least 25 league appearances. Each individual has been judged and compared against their peers based on their total impact upon the English game during their time at a club playing in the top flight.

Games played in the Championship, in the lower leagues or in other countries has not been considered, although international achievements secured during a spell in the Premier League have been taken into account as part of their body of work in the highest tier of English football.

Without further ado, here is our top 30. Disagree with our ranking? Let us know in the comments or tweet us at @Squawka.

30. Max Gradel

BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 10: Max Gradel of AFC Bournemouth in action during the Premier League match between AFC Bournemouth and West Bromwich Albion at Vitality Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Bournemouth, England. (Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images)

Country: Cote D’Ivoire
Club(s):
Bournmouth
Appearances: 25
Honours: None

An exciting and unpredictable talent for Leeds United, who he joined initially on loan after a loan spell at Bournemouth from Leicester, he was tipped to be a player who could make a difference for the Cherries when he was signed on a permanent basis by Eddie Howe in 2015, after winning the African Cup of Nations.

However, an ACL injury ruled him out of action before he could even begin to properly re-establish himself at his old club and he has struggled to find his footing in the Premier League ever since.

29. Daniel Amartey

Leicester City's Ghanaian midfielder Daniel Amartey (R) vies with Tottenham Hotspur's English midfielder Dele Alli during the English Premier League football match between Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur at King Power Stadium in Leicester, central England on May 18, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Adrian DENNIS / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo credit should read ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Country: Ghana
Club(s):
Leicester City
Appearances: 29
Honours: Premier League (2016)

Brought in as a part of the solution to the impossible puzzle of how Leicester would replace N’Golo Kante, the Ghanaian midfielder has sank without a trace at the King Power Stadium with regards to being the first-team answer to his club’s problems.

Amartey came in as a January signing in 2016 and received a winners medal after the Foxes shocked the world to run away with the title (although he played only 117 minutes) but he has now become overshadowed by the younger, fitter and better Wilfred Ndidi, signed a year later in the 2017 January transfer window. From a potential heir to Kante to a squad player at best.

28. Bakary Sako

Country: Mali
Club(s):
Crystal Palace
Appearances: 27
Honours: None

Always ready to take a chance on, even when it might be more advisable not to, Sako is a player whose end product isn’t always there, even if his enthusiasm to try and have a go is.

27. Nordin Amrabat

WATFORD, ENGLAND - MAY 21: Gael Clichy of Manchester City and Nordin Amrabat of Watford battle for possession during the Premier League match between Watford and Manchester City at Vicarage Road on May 21, 2017 in Watford, England. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Country: Morocco 
Club(s):
Watford
Appearances: 41
Honours: None

A key player for the Hornets, Morocco international Amrabat has hardly pulled up any trees in the Premier League so far. Steady as he goes, he is a regular fixture in one of the division’s more frustrating sides given the hype around the Pozzo model of ownership carried over from Udinese and Granada.

26. Jordan Ayew

BIRMINGHAM, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 09: Jordan Ayew of Aston Villa is tackled by Steve Cook of Bournemouth during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and A.F.C. Bournemouth at Villa Park on April 9, 2016 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Country: Ghana
Club(s):
 Aston Villa, Swansea City
Appearances: 44
Honours: None

More industrious yet less inspirational than his brother Andre Ayew, Jordan Ayew failed to save Aston Villa from relegation in 2016 but after a move to his sibling’s former club Swansea in January 2017 he proved to be exactly the sort of dynamic worker Paul Clement needed to give the South Wales club the traction they needed to stay up.

25. Diafra Sakho

West Ham United's Senegalese striker Diafra Sakho celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the English Premier League football match between West Ham United and Manchester City at Upton Park in London on October 25, 2014. AFP PHOTO / GLYN KIRK RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or live services. Online in-match use limited to 45 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. (Photo credit should read GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images)

Country: Senegal 
Club(s):
 West Ham United
Appearances: 48
Honours: None

A hard-working, hot-shot striker for Sam Allardyce plucked from relative obscurity and turned into an instant match-winner for West Ham in 2014, Sakho was named as the Premier League’s Player of the Month for October that year. Injuries unfortunately derailed his progress with managerial change also complicating matters.

He has never come close to matching his early return of six goals in six straight league games to match a record set by Micky Quinn in 1992.

24. Pape Souare

Crystal Palace's Senegalese defender Pape Souare (R) runs with the ball from Newcastle United's Dutch defender Daryl Janmaat during the English Premier League football match between Crystal Palace and Newcastle United at Selhurst Park in south London on November 28, 2015. AFP PHOTO / ADRIAN DENNIS RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. / AFP / ADRIAN DENNIS (Photo credit should read ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Country: Senegal
Club(s):
Crystal Palace
Appearances: 46
Honours: None

A car accident saw the Palace left-back ruled out for the season in September 2016 leaving his club short of their only naturally left-footed option down his flank – a tragedy off the field that also came to be pinpointed as one of the major problems for the Eagles in a season of struggle that almost ended in relegation.

Souare is well liked at Selhurst Park and the hope is that he will be able to make a full recovery soon.

23. Chancel Mbemba

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 19: Chancel Mbemba of Newcastle United during the Barclays Premier League match between Newcastle United and Watford on September 19, 2015 in Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom. (Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images)

Country: DR Congo
Club(s):
Newcastle United
Appearances: 33
Honours: None

Much is expected from the Congelese centre-back upon his return to the Premier League with Newcastle United, winners of the Championship title in 2017. Mbemba was one of the few players to be relegated from the top flight with some credit in 2016 given his comfort on the football and prodigious defensive abilities.

However, injury saw him sidelined for much of his second season leaving question marks over how much he will contribute to the team in 2017/18.

22. Mame Biram Diouf

STOKE ON TRENT, ENGLAND - AUGUST 20: Mame Diouf of Stoke City shoots at goal under pressure from John Stones of Manchester City during the Premier League match between Stoke City and Manchester City on August 20, 2016 in Stoke on Trent, England. (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images)

Country: Senegal
Club(s):
Manchester United, Blackburn Rovers, Stoke City
Appearances: 118
Honours: One – League Cup (2010)

A punt of a signing by Sir Alex Ferguson during one of his more speculative transfer splashes, the Senegalese forward won a single trophy at Old Trafford before being loaned out to Blackburn and then sold to Bundesliga side Hannover 96, where he remained until 2014 when Stoke came calling. However, he has been turned into more of a support player than an out-and-out goalscorer for the Potters, and his reputation in some quarters has suffered because of it.

21. Kelechi Iheanacho

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 10: Kelechi Iheanacho of Manchester City celebrates scoring his sides second goal with his team mate Nolito of Manchester City during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Manchester City at Old Trafford on September 10, 2016 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Country: Nigeria 
Club(s):
Manchester City
Appearances: 46
Honours: One – League Cup (2016)

Still one for the future, Iheanacho already boasts a collection of individual honours to underline how highly-rated he remains – a Golden Ball winner at the Under-17 World Cup, which he won with Nigeria, who was named as the Most Promising Player in Africa by the Confederation of African Footballer in 2013 and 2017.

He now needs regular senior football to make the headway his talent deserves after a season in which opportunities haven’t been easy to come by under Pep Guardiola.

20. Arouna Kone

SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 29: Wigan forward Arouna Kone has a shot at goal during the Barclays Premier League game between Sunderland and Wigan Athletic at Stadium of Light on September 29, 2012 in Sunderland, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Country: Cote D’Ivoire
Club(s):
 Wigan Athletic, Everton
Appearances: 82
Honours: One – FA Cup (2013)

Roberto Martinez couldn’t get enough of the clever Ivorian forward and when he was appointed manger at Everton after winning the FA Cup with Wigan, only to be relegated, he brought Kone along for the ride. There was a time when the attacker formed one half of a fearsome front two partnership with Romelu Lukaku, although he is now a player on the periphery at Goodison Park.

19. Mohamed Elneny

during The Emirates FA Cup Final between Arsenal and Chelsea at Wembley Stadium on May 27, 2017 in London, England.

Country: Egypt
Club(s):
 Arsenal
Appearances: 25
Honours: One – FA Cup (2017)

The Egyptian passing machine hasn’t seen as much action as some Arsenal fans had hoped he would but is nonetheless a solid back-up to the Gunners in midfield. He finished as a runner-up at the 2017 African Cup of Nations for his country.

18. Jeffrey Schlupp

during the Premier League match between Southampton and Crystal Palace at St Mary's Stadium on April 5, 2017 in Southampton, England.

Country: Ghana
Club(s):
 Leicester City, Crystal Palace
Appearances: 75
Honours: One – Premier League (2016)

Named as the Players’ Player of the Year at Leicester in 2015 and the club’s Young Player of the Year for 2015 and 2016, Schlupp left for Palace in January 2017 to become one of the faces of their Premier League survival charge under Sam Allardyce, two years on from putting in a similar shift to keep Nigel Pearson’s Foxes in the division.

He has played as a striker, a winger, a full-back, a wing-back and even, in an emergency, at centre-back!

17. Benik Afobe

BURNLEY, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 10: Benik Afobe of AFC Bournemouth has his shot at goal dissallowed during the Premier League match between Burnley and AFC Bournemouth at Turf Moor on December 10, 2016 in Burnley, England. (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

Country: DR Congo
Club(s): Bournemouth
Appearances: 46
Honours: None

Once a youth player for Arsenal, Afobe was linked with a move to Barcelona during his days as an academy player only to drop down the leagues to eventually rise back up with Bournemouth.

16. Allan Nyom

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 26: Allan-Romeo Nyom of West Bromwich Albion battles for the ball with Lucas of Arsenal during the Premier League match between Arsenal and West Bromwich Albion at Emirates Stadium on December 26, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Country: Cameroon
Club(s): Watford, West Bromwich Albion
Appearances: 64
Honours: None

A rock of a full-back fro Watford and West Brom who is trusted by Tony Pulis to lock down whichever flank he is posted to.

15. Alex Iwobi

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - MARCH 04: Alex Iwobi of Arsenal (C) attempts to take the ball past Joel Matip of Liverpool (L) and Emre Can of Liverpool (R) during the Premier League match between Liverpool and Arsenal at Anfield on March 4, 2017 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Country: Nigeria
Club(s): Arsenal
Appearances: 39
Honours: One – FA Cup (2017)

The latest young Gunner to roll off the production line at the Arsenal academy, Iwobi was named as the Young Player of the Year for 2016 by the Confederation of African Football. Playing alongside Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, at the start of the 2016/17 season, the Nigerian was a key ingredient in one of most fluid and threatening front lines in the league.

14. Andre Ayew

SWANSEA, WALES - MAY 15: during the Barclays Premier League match between Swansea City and Manchester City at the Liberty Stadium on May 15, 2016 in Swansea, Wales.

Country: Ghana
Club(s): Swansea City, West Ham United
Appearances: 59
Honours: None

After a bright start that saw the former BBC African Player of the Year for 2011 grab the Premier League Player of the Month award for August 2015, Ayew struggled to realise his promise, but became West Ham’s record signing in 2016 only for injury to disrupt his first season in London.

The top scorer at the 2015 African Cup of Nations, where he finished as a runner-up with Ghana, English football will surely only see more from another son of the great Abedi Pele.

13. Idrissa Gueye

during the Premier League match between Everton and Middlesbrough at Goodison Park on September 17, 2016 in Liverpool, England.

Country: Senegal
Club(s): Aston Villa, Everton
Appearances: 68
Honours: None

N’Golo Kante’s main rival when it comes to counting up tackles and interceptions, the Senegalese enforcer was a diamond in the rough at Aston Villa who was saved from relegation and given the opportunity to show his quality at Everton in 2016.

12. Mohamed Diame

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 01: Mohamed Diame of West Ham United scores his goal during the Barclays Premier League match between West Ham United and Chelsea at the Boleyn Ground on December 1, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)

Country: Senegal
Club(s): Wigan Athletic, West Ham United, Hull City, Newcastle United
Appearances: 179
Honours: None

A box-to-box midfield general capable of doing it all, from scoring goals to getting a grip of games, he wasn’t as consistent as his struggling sides needed him to be but at his best he is one hell of a player.

11. Wilfried Bony

SWANSEA, WALES - DECEMBER 26: Wilfried Bony of Swansea City jumps for a cross during the Barclays Premier League match between Swansea City and Aston Villa at Liberty Stadium on December 26, 2014 in Swansea, Wales. (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

Country: Cote D’Ivoire
Club(s):
Swansea City, Manchester City, Stoke City
Appearances: 100
Honours: Two – African Cup of Nations (2015), League Cup (2016)

Named in the team of the tournament at the African Cup of Nations 2015 as Cote D’Ivoire’s so-called “Golden Generation” finally lifted the title, Bony has flattered to deceive since moving from Swansea City in 2015 after one-and-a-half seasons of goal-scoring excellence for the South Wales club. He may have long since gone off the boil but it should not be forgotten just how good the Ivorian was when he first arrived in England.

10. Joel Matip

during the Premier League match between Liverpool and Middlesbrough at Anfield on May 21, 2017 in Liverpool, England.

Country: Cameroon
Club(s): Liverpool
Appearances: 29
Honours: None

He could have helped Cameroon to lift the African Cup of Nations in 2017 but after disputes with his national team the defender was unable to play for club or country during the tournament. Yet when he was available for the Reds he proved himself to be exactly the sort of quietly commanding centre-back they have lacked in the middle of defence – with a superior partner next to him, who knows how strong a foundation he could help to form at Anfield.

9. Cheikhou Kouyate

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 30: Cheikhou Kouyate of West Ham United holds off pressure from Anthony Martial of Manchester United during the EFL Cup quarter final match between Manchester United and West Ham United at Old Trafford on November 30, 2016 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Country: Senegal
Club(s):
 West Ham United
Appearances: 96
Honours: None

One of the few West Ham players to find consistency under Slaven Bilic, he has been a solid presence in midfield and defence for the Irons for three seasons now, and a dependable stalwart always eager to take command of games wherever he plays.

8. Eric Bailly

during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Chelsea at Old Trafford on April 16, 2017 in Manchester, England.

Country: Cote D’Ivoire
Club(s): Manchester United
Appearances: 25
Honours: Two – League Cup (2017), Europa League (2017)

It’s early days for the Ivorian at Old Trafford but he has already shown his quality and potential as a ball-playing enforcer keeping order and starting moves from the back for Jose Mourinho, and also picked up two major titles for his troubles in his first season in England.

7. Yannick Bolasie

Everton's French-born Congolese midfielder Yannick Bolasie celebrates scoring their first goal to equalise 1-1 during the English Premier League football match between Burnley and Everton at Turf Moor in Burnley, north west England on October 22, 2016. / AFP / OLI SCARFF / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo credit should read OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images)

Country: DR Congo
Club(s): Crystal Palace, Everton
Appearances: 103
Honours: None

The first Crystal Palace player to score a hattrick in the history of the Premier League, the Congolese winger bagged three in 11 minutes as the Eagles beat Sunderland 4-1 in April 2015. An unpredictable, free-roaming dribbler with his own signature move – the Bolasie Chop – he remains one of the divisions most exciting player on the ball, when he is fit.

6. Wilfried Zaha

during the Premier League match between Hull City and Crystal Palace at KCOM Stadium on December 10, 2016 in Hull, England.

Country: Cote D’Ivoire
Club(s): Manchester United, Cardiff City, Crystal Palace
Appearances: 114
Honours: None

Palace’s Player of the Year for 2016 and 2017, Zaha is the South London club’s homegrown talisman who initially helped lift the Eagles into the Premier League before moving to Manchester United where he failed to break into the first team only to move back to his old team on loan following a spell with Cardiff. He eventually agreed terms for a permanent return and has blossomed to become one of the most exciting wingers in the English topflight.

5. Victor Moses

during the Premier League match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Stamford Bridge on October 15, 2016 in London, England.

Country: Nigeria
Club(s): Wigan Athletic, Chelsea, Liverpool, Stoke City, West Ham United
Appearances: 190
Honours: Three – African Cup of Nations (2013), Europa League (2013), Premier League (2017)

After finally coming in from the cold after three uncertain loan spells away from Stamford Bridge, Chelsea winger Victor Moses found a new life as a Premier League-wining wing-back under Antonio Conte after initially thriving out on the wing for Wigan Athletic.

4. Victor Wanyama

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 12: Christian Eriksen of Tottenham Hotspur (R/obscure) celebrates scoring his sides first goal and his mobbed by Victor Wanyama of Tottenham Hotspur (C) and team mates during The Emirates FA Cup Quarter-Final match between Tottenham Hotspur and Millwall at White Hart Lane on March 12, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Country: Kenya
Club(s): Southampton, Tottenham Hotspur
Appearances: 121
Honours: None

Mauricio Pochettino’s defensive midfield shield, Wanyama is the first Kenyan to play in the Premier League, and has proven himself to be an indomitable presence in the middle of the park for Southampton and Spurs.

3. Sadio Mane

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 19: Sadio Mane of Liverpool beats Joel Robles of Everton as he scores their first goal during the Premier League match between Everton and Liverpool at Goodison Park on December 19, 2016 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Country: Senegal
Club(s): Southampton, Liverpool
Appearances: 94
Honours: None

First at Southampton and now at Liverpool, the Senegalese forward has proven himself to be one of the most razor-sharp attackers in the Premier League. Mane was named as Liverpool’s Player of the Year in 2017 by his fellow professionals and the fans and his importance to the team was never more obvious than when he was unavailable to play. With the fast-footed right winger on the field, Jurgen Klopp’s side can be irresistible.

2. Riyad Mahrez

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 06: Riyad Mahrez of Leicester City celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Leicester City at the Etihad Stadium on February 6, 2016 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Country: Algeria
Club(s): Leicester City
Appearances: 103
Honours: One – Premier League (2016)

A wing wizard who first provided Leicester with the inspiration to beat the drop under Nigel Pearson in 2015 only to then come up with the goals, guile and creativity to turn them into fairy-tale Premier League champions a year later, Mahrez has rightly been recognised for his achievements in the English game.

He was named as Algerian Footballer of the Year in 2015 and 2016 before picking up the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award, the PFA Fans’ Player of the Year award, the Leicester Player of the Year award, BBC African Player of the Year, CAF Player of the Year and the Lion ‘Or, all in 2016 for helping to make the football world dream.

1. Yaya Toure

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MARCH 25: Yaya Toure of Manchester City celebrates scoring the third goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Manchester City at Old Trafford on March 25, 2014 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Country: Cote D’Ivoire
Club(s): Manchester City
Appearances: 220
Honours: Six – League Cup (2011), Premier League (2012, 2014), League Cup (2014, 2016), African Cup of Nations (2015)

Not only does Yaya Toure deserve to be mentioned alongside the most successful African imports to play in the English leagues, he will also go down as one of the best and most complete midfielders of the Premier League era. A magical playmaker with the frame and force to drive his team from box-to-box, the Ivorian was derided by those who believed he had merely been a spoiler for Barcelona as a waste of money.

With a grand total of five major honours won so far in a City shirt, he has already proven himself to be worth every penny that was spent on him in 2010. A four-time African Footballer of the Year winner, twice named as the BBC African Footballer of the Year, Yaya Toure is a player who belongs among the greats.

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