Here is a comprehensive list of all African players who won the Champions League. The UEFA Champions League is the pinnacle of club football, and throughout its history, several African players have managed to etch their names in the annals of this prestigious competition. This article pays homage to the illustrious African footballers who have won the coveted Champions League trophy.
The Inception of African Glory in European Football
The first African player to win the European Champions Cup, the predecessor to the UEFA Champions League, was Zimbabwean goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar. Born in Durban, South Africa, Grobbelaar represented Zimbabwe at the international level and lifted the European cup with Liverpool in the 1983/84 season.
Before Grobbelaar’s triumph, four African-born footballers had won the European Champion Cup with SL Benfica in the 1960/61 season. However, Alberto Costa Pereira, Joaquim Santana, José Águas, and Mário Coluna were considered Portuguese players as they represented the Portuguese national team.
African Champions League Winners: A Comprehensive List
Since Grobbelaar’s pioneering victory, numerous African players have joined the elite club of Champions League winners. The following list showcases these talented footballers, their countries, clubs, and the seasons they won the prestigious trophy.
1983/84: Bruce Grobbelaar (Zimbabwe) – Liverpool
Grobbelaar’s heroics in the 1984 European Cup final against AS Roma set the stage for future African players to shine on Europe’s grandest stage.
1986/87: Rabah Madjer (Algeria) – FC Porto
Madjer became the second African player to win the Champions League, scoring a memorable backheel goal to help FC Porto secure a victory over Bayern Munich.
1992/93: Abedi Pele (Ghana) – Olympique de Marseille
The Ghanaian legend inspired Olympique de Marseille to their first and only Champions League title, playing a pivotal role in the team’s success.
1994/95: Finidi George and Nwankwo Kanu (Nigeria) – Ajax Amsterdam
The Nigerian duo were integral members of the young, exciting Ajax team that conquered Europe in the mid-90s, defeating AC Milan in the final.
1996/97: Ibrahim Tanko (Ghana) – Borussia Dortmund
Although Tanko did not feature in the final, he was part of the Borussia Dortmund squad that won the Champions League, defeating Juventus in the final match.
1999/00 and 2000/01: Geremi (Cameroon) and Samuel Kuffour (Ghana) – Real Madrid and Bayern Munich
Geremi claimed two Champions League titles with Real Madrid, while Kuffour won the prestigious trophy with Bayern Munich. Both players were key contributors to their respective teams’ successes.
2003/04: Benni McCarthy (South Africa) – FC Porto
South Africa’s finest footballer, McCarthy, won the Champions League with José Mourinho’s FC Porto, contributing crucial goals en route to the final.
2004/05: Djimi Traoré (Mali) – Liverpool
Traoré was part of Liverpool’s historic “Miracle of Istanbul” team that came back from a 3-0 deficit to defeat AC Milan in a penalty shootout.
2005/06, 2008/09, and 2009/10: Samuel Eto’o (Cameroon) – FC Barcelona and Inter Milan
Eto’o holds the distinction of being the African player with the most Champions League titles, winning the competition thrice – twice with FC Barcelona and once with Inter Milan.
2008/09: Yaya Touré (Ivory Coast) and Seydou Keita (Mali) – FC Barcelona
Touré and Keita were part of Pep Guardiola’s all-conquering FC Barcelona team that won multiple trophies, including the 2008/09 Champions League title.
2009/10: Sulley Muntari (Ghana) and McDonald Mariga (Kenya) – Inter Milan
Muntari and Mariga were members of José Mourinho’s treble-winning Inter Milan squad, with Mariga becoming the first Kenyan player to win the Champions League.
2011/12: John Obi Mikel (Nigeria), Salomon Kalou and Didier Drogba (Ivory Coast), and Michael Essien (Ghana) – Chelsea
These African stars played crucial roles in Chelsea’s first-ever Champions League triumph, with Drogba scoring the decisive penalty in the final against Bayern Munich.
2017/18: Achraf Hakimi (Morocco) – Real Madrid
Hakimi, a promising young talent, was part of the Real Madrid squad that won their third consecutive Champions League title in the 2017/18 season.
2018/19: Mohamed Salah (Egypt), Sadio Mané (Senegal), Joel Matip (Cameroon), and Naby Keita (Guinea) – Liverpool
These African stars were instrumental in Liverpool’s sixth Champions League title, with Salah and Mané scoring crucial goals throughout the campaign.
2020/21: Edouard Mendy (Senegal) and Hakim Ziyech (Morocco) – Chelsea
Mendy and Ziyech became the latest Africans to win the prestigious trophy, joining an elite group of footballers from the continent.
2022/23: Riyad Mahrez (Algeria) – Manchester City
Mahrez, a talented Algerian winger, added his name to the list of African Champions League winners by lifting the trophy with Manchester City in the 2022/23 season. His contributions on the field were instrumental in helping Manchester City secure their first-ever Champions League title.
Burna Boy Champions League: Celebrating African Excellence
Burna Boy, the popular Nigerian musician, has now become the first African to perform at the UEFA Champions League final following his performance in Istanbul on Saturday, June 10, 2023.
The Future of African Footballers in the Champions League
The list of African players who won the Champions League is a testament to the continent’s immense footballing talent.
From pioneers like Bruce Grobbelaar to modern-day superstars like Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané, African footballers have left an indelible mark on the history of the UEFA Champions League. As the competition evolves, the continent’s most talented players will undoubtedly continue to grace Europe’s grandest stage, adding to the rich tapestry of African success in the Champions League.