The 2014/15 UEFA Champions League is currently underway and a number of African soccer stars have already started to shine for their respective teams.
Algerian midfielder Yacine Brahimi (Porto) and Ivorian forward Gervinho (Roma) are currently topping the scoring charts and they are amongst a number of African players who aspire to be part of this year’s final, set to take place at the Olympiastadion in Berlin.
Those players will look to join a list of African legends, as well as some unlikely names, who have managed to help their teams towards Champions League glory in the past.
Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou, John Obi, Michael Essien (Chelsea 2011/12),
Ivorian superstar Didier Drogba was the hero in the 2011/12 final as he scored a late equalizer to cancel Thomas Müller’s opener and send the game into extra time and later penalties. During the penalty shootout, Drogba scored the fifth and final spotkick to secure 4-3 win for the Blues. His countryman Salomon Kalou was also in the starting lineup, alongside Nigeria’s John Obi Mikel, while Ghana’s Michael Essien was an unused substitute.
Seydou Keita (Barcelona 2010/11)
Keita again came on as a second half substitute as Barcelona overpowered Manchester United 3-1 in the final with Pedro, Lionel Messi and David Villa scoring for the Spanish side, while Wayne Rooney scored the only goal of the match for the Red Devils.
Yaya Toure, Samuel Eto’o, Seydou Keita (FC Barcelona 2008/09)
Ivorian superstar Yaya Toure was in the starting lineup and Malian midfielder Seydou Keita came on as a substitute as Barcelona defeated Manchester United 2-0 in the final. Cameroon’s Samuel Eto’o opened the scoring and Lionel Messi added a second as the Pep Guardiola became the youngest coach to win the Champions League.
Samuel Eto’o, Sulley Muntari, McDonald Mariga (FC Internazionale Milano 2009/10)
Diego Milito’s brace helped Inter Milan register a 2-0 win over Bayern Munich in the 2000/10 final and Samuel Eto’o, who played the full match, received his third Champions League gold medal. Ghanaian midfielder Sulley Muntari came on as a late substitute while Kenya’s McDonald Mariga was an unused substitute
Samuel Eto’o (FC Barcelona 2005/06)
Eto’o was in the starting lineup and he was on target as Barcelona came back from behind to beat a ten-man Arsenal. The Cameroonian was instrumental throughout the match and he cancelled Sol Campbell’s equalizer before Juliano Belletti scored a late winner.
Djimi Traore (Liverpool 2004/05)
The Malian left-back made the starting line-up as Liverpool came back from three goals down to hold AC Milan to a 3-3 draw before winning the 2004/05 title 3-1 on penalties. Traore will be remembered for his goalline clearance which denied Andriy Shevchenko a goal late in the second half.
Benni McCarthy (Porto 2003/04)
McCarthy was a key part of the Porto side which won the 2003/04 Champions League. Although he came on as a substitute in the final as they hammered AS Monaco 3-0, he played a bigger role during the earlier rounds, including scoring a brace during the 2-1 win over Manchester United.
Samuel Kuffour (Bayern Munich 2000/01)
Kuffour played the entire match as Munich defeated Spanish side Valencia 5-4 on penalties in the 2000/01 Champions League final after the match had ended in a 1-1 draw. The Ghanaian played in another final during the 1998/99 season but this time Bayern lost 2-1 to Manchester United.
Nigeria – Finidi George (Ajax 1994/95), Nkwankwo Kanu (Ajax 1994/95),
Nigerian midfielder Finidi George was in the starting lineup and his countryman Nwankwo Kanu replaced Clarence Seedorf in the 53rd minute as Ajax Amsterdam defeated AC Milan 1-0 in the final during the 1994/95 season. Both players were back in the final with Ajax the following season but this time ended on the losing side as Juventus won the title on penalties.
Abedi Pele Ayew (Marseille 1992/93)
The Ghanaian midfielder was influential during Marseille’s UEFA Champions League final 1-0 win over AC Milan in 1993. He delivered the left-footed corner which led to the only goal of the match, which was scored by Basile Boli. He was also named man of the match for his overall contribution during the game.
Rabah Madjer (Porto 1986/87)
Having joined Porto the season before, the Algerian international played a big role for the Portuguese club as they defeated Bayern Munich 2-1 in the 1986/87 season to win their first European Cup. Madjer scored the equalizer in the final in the 77th minute before Juary netted the winner a few minutes later.
Bruce Grobbelaar (Liverpool 1983/84)
The South African-born goalkeeper represented Zimbabwe in international football and he was the first player from an independent African nation to win the Champions League (then European Cup) when Liverpool defeated Roma 4-2 on penalties after the match had ended 4-2 on penalties. Grobbelaar left an impression during the penalty shootout when his ‘wobbly legs’ distraction routine which has been credited for the penalties