Chelsea has been one of the most successful teams in European football. Most of their successes have been due to good recruitment drive and decisions in the transfer market. A good contingent of Chelsea African players has also contributed to their overall success.
During Ancelotti’s reign, Chelsea used to field as many as four African players in his starting line-up. Didier Drogba, Michael Essien, Mikel Obi, and Kalou were integral players of the first-team setup.
Best Chelsea African Players
The Ivory Coast international is a true Chelsea legend. Signed in 2004 from Marseille in France, Drogba’s status will grow in Chelsea, becoming one of the feared strikers in Europe. He scored 164 goals during his time nine years stay at the club across two spells.
He won four Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, and most importantly the Champions League in 2012. He will receive the honorary UEFA President’s Award in 2020 for his exemplary contribution to football.
Drogba won the Premier League Golden Boot twice and was named Chelsea Player of the Season at Chelsea. Drogba is the first African player to score 100 Premier League goals. He was named in the FIFPro World XI in 2007 and was fourth in the FIFA World Player of the Year ranking. He also made the shortlist for the Ballon d’Or eight times during his career.
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At the international stage, he was named African Footballer of the Year in 2006, and 2009. He was the country’s captain and still holds the Ivory Coast highest goal-scoring record with 65 goals. He is undisputedly top in the list of Chelsea African players.
When Chelsea signed Michael Essien from Olympique Lyon in 2005, he was the most expensive of all Chelsea African players, and at the same time, the most expensive African player in the world. He will go on to depose Claude Makelele from Chelsea’s starting line-up.
Essien has a knack for producing world-class strikes from long range, as illustrated by the fact that he won the Chelsea Goal of the season twice. He was named Chelsea’s Player of the Year in 2007. He was nominated for the FIFA Player of the Year and Ballon d’Or various times in his Chelsea career.
Essien won two Premier League titles, two FA Cup, one Carabao Cup, and a Champions League trophy in successful seven years at the club.
A Nigerian international, Mikel Obi started his career at Plateau United in his country. He will move to Lyn Fotball in Norway. A transfer saga between Chelsea and Manchester United involving the midfielder was settled with Chelsea paying Manchester United and Lyn a total of £16 million.
After a difficult start under Mourinho, who criticized his indiscipline and lifestyle, Mikel Obi will settle into Chelsea’s first-team as the main holding midfielder. This was facilitated by the exit of Makelele and injuries to Michael Essien.
Mikel Obi will make 372 appearances for Chelsea in his eleven years’ stay at the club. He won two Premier League titles, two Carabao Cups, four FA Cups, and a Champions League medal. He was praised for his performance in the final against Bayern Munich.
He led his country, Nigeria to the Africa Cup of Nations victory in 2013.
Kalou joined Chelsea from Feyenoord in 2006. A Mourinho’s favorite, Kalou found game time under the manager. He scored vital goals for Chelsea too. Under Felipe Scolari and Villas-Boas, he struggled for game time making more cameo appearances.
Salomon Kalou was a vital part of Chelsea’s Champions League-winning team playing in the final. Additionally, he won a Premier League, four FA Cups, and a Carabao cup. In his six years at the club, Kalou scored 60 goals for Chelsea in 254 appearances.
Just as Mikel Obi, Celestine Babayaro started his career at the local side, Plateau United. He will move to Europe to join Anderlecht in 1994.
Celestine Babayaro will join Chelsea in 1997 as the costliest teenager signing by the club. He suffered an injury during his early Chelsea career. He will bounce back to compete with Graeme Le Saux for the left-back starting role.
He made 194 appearances for Chelsea during his seven-year stay at the club with the 1998/19 season being his most productive season in terms of appearances. He is renowned for his trademark acrobatic backflip celebration of goals.
He won the Premier League, an FA Cup, a Carabao Cup, UEFA Super Cup, and a Community Shield at his time at Chelsea.
Samuel Eto’o spent most of his career in trophy-laden spells at Barcelona and Inter Milan. After a brief stint at Anzhi Makhachkala in Russian League where he was the highest-paid player in the world, he moved to Chelsea in 2013 to join the illustrious list of Chelsea African players.
Aged 32, Eto’o spent one season at Chelsea and made 35 appearances scoring 12 goals serving mainly as a backup to Fernando Torres.