Football is by far the most popular sport in Africa and the followership for the beautiful game runs into hundreds of millions on the continent.
The state of the game on the continent might be some way off the standards set by Europe. However, some established African national teams like Nigeria, Cameroon, Ivory Coast and Algeria have all made their mark on the global stage.
Several children dream of playing at the dizzying heights of elite football and subsequently hone their craft playing in mini-street football tournaments. The select few who have been able to make it to the professional level have gone on to further fly the African flag on the biggest stages.
Africa has produced some of the greatest players in the history of the game. These include the likes of Samuel Eto’o, Jay Jay Okocha, Kanu Nwankwo, George Weah, Didier Drogba and Yaya Toure.
These players all proved their world-class abilities at one point or the other in their careers and are highly regarded in their respective nations.
Football has grown into a multi-billion industry and a significant sum is spent on strengthening the squads of the biggest clubs. The last decade has seen exponential growth in the amounts paid to sign players and it is not uncommon to see untested teenagers bought for eight-figure sums.
African players have not been left out of the big-money transfer frenzy in recent years. Several African players have been bought for hefty sums – sometimes club-record fees to varying degrees of success. While some have repaid every penny spent and some more, others have failed to perform at the levels expected.
Here is a rundown of the five most expensive African players in football history.
#5 Naby Keita – £52.75m (RB Leipzig to Liverpool) – 2018
Naby Keita shone brightly at RB Leipzig, which led to interest in his services across Europe.
The Guinea international was an immense presence in the middle of the park for the Bundesliga side. Keita’s performances helped Leipzig establish themselves among the best clubs in the German top-flight as well as across Europe.
Liverpool were extremely keen to sign the African playmaker, with several rumors linking the two parties. The club finally agreed to his transfer for the sum of £52.75m in 2017, a year before he officially made the move to Merseyside.
Naby Keita sustained a hamstring injury during tonight's 3-0 win, the boss confirmed 👇— Liverpool FC (@LFC) November 22, 2020
Keita was expected to help bolster Jurgen Klopp’s team and become the missing link in midfield. However, injuries have been unkind to the 26-year-old. Multiple different long and short-term injuries have limited the African to just 33 Premier League starts in three seasons.
#4 Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – £56m (Borussia Dortmund to Arsenal) – 2017
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was one of the standout players in the Bundesliga with Borussia Dortmund. His highest point in the German top-flight came when he outscored Robert Lewandowski to finish as the league’s top scorer in the 2016-17 season.
He then tried to force a move away from Signal Iduna Park the next summer to try his luck elsewhere in Europe. But despite some top clubs like Manchester United and Chelsea needing strikers, they surprisingly overlooked the Gabon hitman.
Arsenal then made a move for him during the winter transfer window, paying BVB the sum of £56m. This was a club-record fee to price the former AC Milan man away from Germany.
Aubameyang has been one of the better players in what has been a hollow period for Arsenal. He has scored a respectable 85 goals from 148 matches and won the Premier League Golden Boot in his first full season with the club.
The 32-year-old has also been named club captain, although he had an underwhelming campaign during the 2020-21 season.