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Ranking Africa's Premier League flops


A history of the Premier League's African winners

Victor Moses became the Premier League's 15th African winner when Chelsea beat West Bromwich Albion on Friday, but which of the continent's stars preceded him?

In this feature, KweséESPN present a complete history of Africa's Premier League winners.

It was only in the sixth season of Premier League action since the English top flight's rebrand in 1992 that an African player won the title, when Liberia's Christopher Wreh was part of Arsenal's double-winning side.

The forward had to bide his time to make an impact -- unsurprising considering he had to jostle with the likes of Ian Wright, Dennis Bergkamp and Nicolas Anelka -- although he did bag some crucial goals during an excellent season for Arsene Wenger's side.

Wreh scored the sole goal in away wins over Wimbledon and Bolton Wanderers in March, while his most notable contribution perhaps came in the FA Cup semifinal victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers, when he netted the only goal of the game.

The first three African winners of the Premier League were all Arsenal players -- perhaps unsurprisingly considering Sir Alex Ferguson's reservations about recruiting from the continent -- with Lauren and Nwankwo Kanu both clinching the crown in 2002 and 2004.

Nwankwo Kanu
Nwankwo Kanu

The former can be overlooked as one of the Premier League's finest all-time right-backs, but he took to the role remarkably quickly after being converted from a more advanced role by Wenger and was a starting member of Arsenal's fabled Invincibles.

Kanu played much more of a fringe role in the Gunners' successes of 2002 and 2004 with attacking competition again fierce, although he was adored by the club's fans and, in 2008, was voted 13th in a fans' list of Arsenal's finest players.

The Invincibles squad also boasted another African player, with Kolo Toure -- signed for just £150,000 -- sure to be remembered as one of Wenger's greatest signings.

The centre-back forged a commanding partnership with Sol Campbell during Arsenal's unforgettable 2003-04 season, missing just one match as the Londoners romped to the title.

Toure went onto win the championship eight years later with Manchester City, becoming the only African player to win two Premier League titles with different clubs, and one of only seven players to achieve the feat.

Quinton Fortune of South Africa and Manchester United was part of three title-winning sides with the Red Devils, although on each occasion he never played enough games to actually get a medal.

In the third of those successes -- in 2003 -- the club applied for special dispensation in order for the utility man to get the recognition that his seven years of service surely deserved.

Arsenal and United's stranglehold on the title ended when Roman Abramovich's roubles and Jose Mourinho's bravado swept Chelsea to the championship in 2005.

Arguably no team in the history of English football has showcased African footballers as successfully as the Blues, with Didier Drogba, Geremi, Michael Essien, John Obi Mikel and Salomon Kalou all winning the title before Moses became the continent's 15th winner.

No African has been more successful in the top flight than Drogba, who not only scored the winning penalty as Chelsea clinched the Champions League in 2012, but who won four Premier League titles over a decade, returning to London to lift the trophy one final time in 2015.

Mikel and Kalou also featured in the victory over Bayern in 2012, while Essien was an unused substitute. Geremi, who had clinched two Nations Cups with Cameroon, was a European champion with Real Madrid before signing for the Pensioners in 2003. 

Perhaps the greatest African winner of the Premier League is Yaya Toure, or at least, it's hard to pick out too many more players who were more influential in their side's league success than the Ivorian powerhouse in the 2013-14 season.

Having already won the FA Cup with Manchester City in 2011, before ending their 50-year wait for a league title in 2012, Toure scored 20 goals as Manuel Pellegrini's side pipped their rivals to the title two years later.

As Toure's remarkable impact has been forgotten somewhat in recent seasons, amidst a series of comedic headlines, it's become easy to forget that he's only the second central midfielder -- after Frank Lampard -- to bag 20 goals in a single campaign.

Three of Africa's 15 Premier League winners were unexpected champions last term as part of Leicester City's miraculous campaign under Claudio Ranieri.

Riyad Mahrez was the stand-out performer of that success, claiming a swathe of individual awards after scoring 17 goals and contributing 11 assists.

Along with N'Golo Kante and Jamie Vardy, the Algerian was one of the key protagonists of one of the greatest achievements in the history of the English game -- not bad for a player signed by Nigel Pearson for £350,000 in January 2014.

Jeffrey Schlupp -- the second of the side to depart after Kane moved to Chelsea -- also featured on the left side, having progressed from the Foxes' academy, while Daniel Amartey was signed in midseason and made a handful of appearances during the run-in.

Ed Dove is the Soccer Editor for KweséESPN. Follow him on Twitter @EddyDove.


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