Is Salah the best African player in Premier League history?

Martin Martinez Martin Martinez

Since his arrival at Liverpool, Mohamed Salah has been unstoppable after netting 40 goals in all competitions – 30 of them in the Premier League.

He leads the race as the league’s top scorer, with Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Kane in second place with 26 goals. With only a handful of games left, it would take incredible performances from Kane to topple the Liverpool winger.

Salah’s performances have been a key factor in keeping Liverpool in the top four, while also securing a spot in the Champions League semi-finals. Five goals in the last six games have helped Jurgen Klopp’s side put in an unbeaten run during that streak, just when they needed it.

Many have now thrown in Salah’s name as one of the best African players to grace the Premier League. While it is possible that “Mo” has yet to reach his potential and may eventually be credited with that distinction, here are a few names that can rival him for that title.

Michael Essien – Box-to-box maestro

Brought in to Chelsea by Jose Mourinho back in 2005, Michael Essien was tasked to be a dominating defensive midfielder and he certainly lived up to his reputation.

He was excellent in stopping the ball and regaining possession and was intimidating enough that opponents had to second-guess trying to go through tackles with the Ghanaian native.

Essien played 168 matches in the Premier League and while he didn’t get on the scoresheet regularly, he didn’t need to in order to be considered as one of the best midfielders in the competition.

He was the perfect player to maintain a balance between Chelsea’s defence and their potent offence and there were trophies to prove that effectiveness.

Essien was part of the team that won the Premier League title twice, in 2006 and 2010. He was also part of the team that won the club’s first Champions League trophy back in 2011-12.

Despite failing to win the African Football Player of the Year award, Essien was in the conversation throughout his tenure with Chelsea. He came in third in 2005, 2006, 2008 and 2009 while finishing as the runner-up in 2007.

Yaya Toure – A towering presence in the middle

While he may not have the goal-scoring record to match some of the names in this list, Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure deservedly secures a spot in the conversation of the best African player in Premier League history.

The Ivory Coast international has been with the Citizens since 2010 and is one of the biggest reasons why City have lifted the label as being the smaller Manchester club in the Premier League.

As an integral piece of City’s formation, Toure’s control in central midfield has been key for the team to maintain their pace throughout 90 minutes. That has resulted in Premier League titles in 2012, 2014 and 2018.

Outside of other domestic cups like the English League Cup, Toure has also lifted the Champions League title, albeit with Barcelona in 2008-09.

Toure is one of only two players who have won the African Footballer of the Year award on four occasions. The only other player to do it is Cameroon’s Samuel Eto’o.

The main difference between the two legends is that Toure won the title for four consecutive years, from 2011 to 2014. His team accomplishments and personal accolades are impossible to deny.

Didier Drogba – The Blues’ prolific striker

Eden Hazard

It is still difficult to deny the legend of Ivory Coast his spot as the top African player to grace the Premier League. To Chelsea fans, Didier Drogba is a cult legend. His knack of scoring goals at the most opportune time left supporters in ecstasy, while rivals were often seen on their knees in disappointment.

During his tenure with the Blues, Drogba scored 164 goals in 381 appearances across all competitions. Along the way, he secured the Premier League title four times, in 2005, 2006, 2010 and 2015.

Drogba is also a Champions League winner, famously scoring the team’s only goal in regular time as he headed an 88th minute equaliser to take the game to extra-time. Chelsea would eventually win the battle on penalties.

Big and powerful, especially inside the box, Drogba led the Premier League scoring charts back in 2006-07 and 2009-10.

Outside of his team accomplishments, the towering striker also won the African Football Player of the Year award twice, in 2006 and 2009.

Despite being out of the English top-flight since 2015, Drogba is still highly regarded by English fans and critics, and deserves his spot as the best African football player to ever step foot in the Premier League.

Where Salah currently stands

While these names are forever etched in Premier League history, Salah can still surpass them if he attains success with Liverpool. He already had a failed attempt with Chelsea back in 2014, but Salah has seemingly beaten those demons as he continues to dominate in the Premier League.

His incredible pace and confidence in front of goal will be weapons as he tries to get more glory – and the possibility of helping Liverpool win their first Champions League trophy since 2005 would be a big accomplishment.

It is amazing that Salah has done so much in only his first season with the club. He already has one African Football Player of the Year award to his name and if he maintains this form, it won’t be long until he adds more.

The only difference with the other names on the list is that Salah has yet to secure trophies with the Reds. While individual accomplishments are impressive, the collective titles are certainly worth more in terms of leaving a legacy in the Premier League.