Samuel Eto'o with the Afcon trophy before the match between Senegal and Algeria in Egypt - July 2019. Photo: Reuters/Sumaya Hisham

DURBAN – Who is Africa's greatest footballer of all time?

The debate has generally referred to the best ever in the world with some of the view that Brazilian great Pele has no equal and others contending Diego Maradona of Argentina takes that title. Lately, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have entered the fray.

Who then from our continent has made the most indelible mark on the football field?

Our continent has been blessed with so many quality players in the past that the debate on who of those stands head and shoulders above the rest is bound to be just as heated as the global one.

I mean we have had the likes of Abedi Pele Ayew, Roger Milla, Kaludha Bwalya, George Weah, Samuel Eto’o, Didier Drogba, Emmanuel Adebayor and Yaya Toure.

The current generation sees the likes of Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang carrying the torch - dazzling with their magic and finishing prowess.

Mohamed Salah receives the Player of the Year award from former African star player, now Liberian president George Weah in January 2019. Photo: EPA/STR

All at the peak of their career and still with some time to play, the trio is sure to be among African football’s legends by the time they hang up their boots.

But they still have a long way to go before they can have their names mentioned in the same breath as that of the legendary superstar that is Samuel Eto’o.

For me, there is no-one who comes close to the Cameroonian great.

Eto’o enjoyed a glittering career that has delivered just about every accolade there is.

For starters he has served his country’s national team - the Indomitable Lions - with such distinction that he has literally got it all. He played in three Fifa World Cup finals; won Olympic gold with the national Under-23 side and two Africa Cup of Nations titles. And in all those, he was both conductor and soloist of the team - his brilliant skills seeing him creating and scoring goals as well as being the inspirational leader as captain.

This is, after all, a man who is currently the all-time leading scorer of the Africa Cup of Nations finals with 18 strikes.

He has won the CAF Young Footballer of the Year Award and lived up to that promise from 2000 by going on to win the main African Footballer of the Year award a record four times. ‘Nuf said, right?

No?

Former soccer player Samuel Eto'o attends the presentation of the sports application LiveScore in Madrid, Spain in September 2019. Photo: EPA/Rodrigo Jiminez
Former soccer player Samuel Eto'o attends the presentation of the sports application LiveScore in Madrid, Spain in September 2019. Photo: EPA/Rodrigo Jiminez

Ok. Let’s look at club level then where his achievements are even better, Eto’o having began it all in Spain with Mallorca before quickly attracting the attentions of European football’s giants.

The retired superstar has Barcelona, Inter Milan and Chelsea as his former clubs. And he did not just play for these giants of the world game but he starred for them and was at the forefront of their success as he helped them to local and continental honours.

Weah might have won the Fifa World Player of the Year in 1995 but his success on the continent doesn’t come close to what Eto’o achieved. The Liberian still holds the record of being the only footballer in Africa to win the biggest accolade on world football. But the former PSG and AC Milan great didn’t achieve any meaningful success with Liberia and that’s why Eto’o is the greatest of all-time for me.

His departure from the scene due to retirement has left football poorer.

But there can be no denying he has set the bar at a very high level. All Hail King Eto’o.

@Minenhlecr7


The Mercury

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