Here are the top 10 African players to play for Chelsea in history.
Derek Smethurst was the first in the 1970s, but it is only in
more recent times that Chelsea have celebrated the allure
of African football by featuring some of the continent’s
Indeed, it was over 20 years after Smethurst made his
Blues debut that Chelsea drafted in another African to
their starting line-up—South African-born striker Mark
Stein—who became a feature at Stamford Bridge under
manager Glenn Hoddle.
More high-profile names have since followed with African
stars such as Michael Essien , John Obi Mikel and Dider
Drogba having a considerable impact on Chelsea’s
success in the past decade.
Who is the finest, though?
Bleacher Report counts down through Chelsea’s all-time
top 10 African footballers.
10. Victor Moses
1 OF 10
Victor Moses may appear to be surplus under Jose
Mourinho since he’s spending the current campaign on
loan at Liverpool , but in the one season he spent as a
regular at Stamford Bridge, he made a big impact.
It was in the Europa League where Chelsea fans saw the
best he had to offer in 2012-13 as Moses scored four
goals en route to the final.
Chelsea would eventually defeat Benfica, claiming their
second trophy in Europe in as many seasons, and the role
Moses played in that was significant.
9. George Weah
2 OF 10
George Weah was nearing the end of his career when he
arrived at Chelsea on loan from AC Milan in January 2000.
Fans weren’t sure what to expect from the 32-year-old,
but within 30 minutes of his debut, he gave them an
answer, scoring an 87th-minute winner against Tottenham
It immediately endeared him to Chelsea fans, and while
his goalscoring wasn’t exactly prolific, his record of five in
15 matches was still a respectable return.
Weah was at Chelsea for just six months and lifted the FA
Cup in 2000 at Wembley.
8. Celestine Babayaro
3 OF 10
Celestine Babyaro arrived at Chelsea from Anderlecht for
£2.25 million in 1997—a then-record fee that Chelsea had
paid for a teenager.
Had he lived up to his potential, Babayaro would have
featured higher up in our list, but with off-the-field issues
and poor discipline, he never quite became the player
Chelsea thought they were getting.
He had blistering pace and was a real threat going
forward. His position was left-back, though, and with
Graeme Le Saux for competition, he never rivaled the
Englishman’s defensive prowess.
That’s not to say his Chelsea career wasn’t without
success—Babayaro was part of the teams that won the
Cup Winners’ Cup and Super Cup in 1998 and the FA Cup
7. Samuel Eto’o
4 OF 10
Had Samuel Eto’o arrived at Chelsea five years earlier in
his career, we’d be talking about the Cameroon star in the
same bracket as Didier Drogba.
Make no mistake, he has been among the top forward
talents in European football for the past decade, and he’s
shown at various stages this season that he still has the
guile to compete at the highest level.
At 33 years old, it’s his body that is preventing him from
being the player we once knew.
His record of 11 goals this season isn’t to be scoffed at,
It’s not the Eto’o of old, but he has played a considerable
role in Chelsea reaching the Champions League semi-final,
and they are still in the hunt for Premier League glory.
Who knows, in a few weeks, he could have scored even
more goals to bring silverware back to Stamford Bridge,
and his legend will only grow as a result.
5 OF 10
Geremi may not have had the profile of some of the other
African players who find their way into our top 10, but
that’s not to say he wasn’t as important during his years as
a Chelsea player.
Signed from Real Madrid in 2003 by Claudio Ranieri, he
played in various positions for the Blues—right-back, right
wing, central midfield and left wing.
The former Cameroon international fit the cliche: He was
the kind of player not always applauded by the fans but
loved by his teammates for the job he did.
His Chelsea career was a major success on a personal
level too. During his four years in west London, Geremi
won the League Cup twice, the FA Cup and was part of
Jose Mourinho’s all-conquering team that secured back-
to-back Premier League titles in 2005 and 2006.
5. Salomon Kalou
6 OF 10
Like our No. 6 in Chelsea’s list of all-time African
footballers, Salomon Kalou was the kind of player clubs
like Chelsea need—unassuming and ready to accept his
role in the squad.
That isn’t to downplay the Ivorian’s talent—quite the
Kalou’s Chelsea career was a glorious one, earning major
trophies in England and Europe and culminating in the
Champions League in 2012.
With the likes of Didier Drogba, Fernando Torres and
various other star names ahead of him in the pecking
order, his role was often to come from the bench and
impact games for the Blues.
He often did, too.
Chelsea fans need only recall an FA Cup tie at home to
Tottenham Hotspur in 2006-07 when, having trailed 3-1 at
half-time, the Blues eventually secured a replay by
drawing the game 3-3.
And who saved the day? That man Kalou, appearing from
the bench to score an 87th-minute equalizer.
Chelsea won the replay 2-1 and went on to lift the trophy.
4. John Obi Mikel
7 OF 10
There aren’t many players who can last eight years at a
club of Chelsea’s stature, but John Obi Mikel has.
It’s true that with the arrival of Nemanja Matic in January,
it seems the 26-year-old’s days are numbered at Stamford
Bridge. And if he should depart come the summer, it will
bring the curtain down on what has been a fine career in
Mikel hasn’t always been a crowd favorite nor has he
always been one of Chelsea’s finest talents. He has been
Since the departure of Claude Makelele in 2008, the
Nigerian has shared midfield duties with Michael Essien,
and he has proved successful, winning the Premier
League, FA Cup and Champions League.
Alongside Frank Lampard en route to Munich in 2012,
Mikel put in some of his finest performances for Chelsea,
showing what he was truly capable of.
He has been a great advert for African football, and with
much of his career still ahead of him, we can expect that
to carry on whether he is at Chelsea next season or not.
3. Mark Stein
8 OF 10
In these times of world-renowned African talent at
Chelsea, the little guy can sometimes be forgotten.
We’re talking about Mark Stein’s height as his stature as a
Chelsea player was considerable.
At just 5’6″, the Cape Town-born front man was part of an
unlikely strike duo with the equally diminutive John
Spencer during his Chelsea career.
What he lacked in height, though, Stein more than made
up for in punch.
He set a Premier League record in 1993-94, scoring in
seven consecutive matches from December to February. It
started with a 3-1 defeat to Southampton on Dec. 27 and
ended in a 4-2 loss against Everton .
That tells only half the story, though.
Sandwiched between those defeats, Chelsea won three
matches, drawing twice in a run of form that pulled them
clear of the relegation zone.
Stein was instrumental in that and had he not scored
those goals, there’s no telling how the Blues’ season
would have ended.
Eventually, it ended with a trip to Wembley as Chelsea
reached their first FA Cup Final in 24 years, losing to
Manchester United .
They stayed up, though, and built form there to become
the juggernaut we know today.
Incidentally, Stein’s scoring record remained until Ruud
van Nistelrooy broke it in 2002.
2. Michael Essien
9 OF 10
When talking African football, it conjures up images of
warrior-esque performances defined by passion and an
endeavor to succeed—all qualities Michael Essien brought
to Chelsea during his nine years in west London.
The Ghanaian was known as “The Bison,” and prior to two
serious knee injuries, he more than lived up to that
moniker as plenty of opponents will testify.
Essien was a brutal force at the heart of the Chelsea
midfield, a real athlete in every sense.
It’s notable that when he was sidelined with those knee
injuries, Chelsea lost out significantly and their success
Had it not been for his injury problems, he would still be a
regular under Jose Mourinho, too.
1. Didier Drogba
10 OF 10
Our image above says all you need to know about Didier
Drogba and his Chelsea career.
Has any player been so influential in guiding his team to
Champions League success?
Drogba isn’t just Chelsea’s finest African player, he’s
arguably the continent’s finest export.
His impact at Chelsea was considerable, and after
delivering three Premier League titles, four FA Cups, two
League Cups and the Champions League, he left Stamford
Bridge a hero in 2012.
Legends don’t come much bigger than Drogba in west