In a recent interview, former Super Eagles star Yakubu Aiyegbeni was asked who is the greatest African player to ever play in the Premier League.
The ex-Nigerian international did not think twice before picking former Chelsea and Ivory Coast star Didier Drogba, even though he acknowledged Salah’s greatness.
“You cannot say Salah is the greatest African to play in the Premier League. Drogba was something special because he was scoring for fun,” Aiyegbeni said.
“However, you have to give Salah the credit for breaking the big legend’s record, which makes him one of the greatest Africans in the English top-flight, but for now, he is certainly not the greatest.”
If there’s anyone in a position to choose the greatest African player in the Premier League, it is Aiyegbeni, as he was one of the prolific African goalscorers in the English top-flight, with 95 goals, making him the fifth-highest scoring African in Premier League history.
But is Aiyegbeni right in his assertion that Drogba is the greatest African player to play in the Premier League? The truth is the ‘GOAT debate in football is always a subjective one, but there are some criteria that could help.
It’s important to note that greatness is not the same as the best. It’s a summation of ability, success, impact and popularity in this situation,
No offence to Yaya Toure, Kolo Toure, Michael Essien and Sadio Mane, who are equally brilliant in their own right, but this is between Salah and Drogba.
The two players are in a different class from the rest.
So who is the greatest African player in the Premier League?
Aiyegbeni chose Drogba because of his goals, but ironically, the Ivorian does not have a case if that is the criterion. Drogba scored 104 goals in 254 Premier League games, but Salah already has 107 in 168 games and still counting.
In terms of general play, Salah is a better all-round player than the former Olympique Marseille man. Although Drogba managed 64 assists in 254 games, Salah is on course to eclipse that number in lesser games, having provided 44 assists already.
Trophies and Achievements
Drogba holds the ace in this one and was even nicknamed the man for the big occasion due to this record in the finals. The Ivorian won four Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups during his time at Chelsea.
In contrast, Salah has won just two Premier League titles, one with Chelsea and the other with Liverpool. However, he was a squad player when he won his first title with Chelsea, unlike Drogba, who played a major role.
Salah has also won the Champions League with Liverpool, but that’s it. And at the age of 29, time is running out for him to match Drogba’s titles.
Salah holds the edge. The former AS Roma is a two-time African footballer of the year and has also won the PFA player of the year award once.
Although Drogba also won the CAF player of the year twice, he never won the PFA player of the year. Salah also managed to finish in the top three of the FIFA best player award, a feat Drogba never achieved.
The 29-year-old Egyptian also finished as the Premier League top scorer in the 2017/2018 season and 2018/2019. He scored the most goals in a season in the 2017/2018 campaign.
Meanwhile, Drogba also won the golden boot twice but never reached the 30 goal mark.
In fairness, it’s hard to separate both players as they’ve both played their parts in making the English Premier League popular in Africa while also inspiring younger players.
While Drogba has won more trophies, Salah has more individual awards and is the better all-round player. As stated earlier, greatness is a summation of many things, and given Salah ticks all of these boxes, it will be hard to say he is not the greatest African player to ever play in the Premier League.
However, it is a subjective debate.