Opinion

Liverpool’s Five Greatest African Players

Over the past two decades, players from the African continent have become increasingly important in the Premier League. Liverpool have their own, growing history of Africans at the club.

They have made a telling contribution to the club’s success on the pitch. It’s now unlikely to see a Liverpool starting XI without an African import on the team sheet.  In recent years, we have been recruiting some of the continent’s top talent. Here’s a look at five of the best to have ever donned the famous Red.

5. Momo Sissoko 2005 – 2008

One of Rafa’s more underrated success stories in the transfer market, Sissoko was brought in from Valencia in 2005.

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Seen as a long term replacement for Didi Hamann, the Mali International became massively popular at Anfield. The Kop took to his energy, enthusiasm and strong tackling. In the 05-06 campaign he was one of Rafa’s most impressive midfielders. A genuine number six, he ran the hard lines for his colleagues and read the game with precision.

An FA Cup winner’s medal was earned in 2006 and the future looked bright. However, injuries, Liverpool’s old amigo, struck down Sissoko’s progress. An eye injury and a dislocated shoulder caused massive disruption to his game time. He also seemed to have lost confidence and was much more timid on the pitch after his layoffs.  There was a lack of zip to his play and his form declined quickly.

The arrival of Javier Mascherano from West Ham pretty much relegated Momo to the bench. In the winter window of 2008 he departed to Juventus, but left us with fond memories of a hard working, no-nonsense defensive midfielder.

4. Gordon Hodgson 1925-1936

An oldie, but a goodie! South African striker Gordon Hodgson was one of the most prolific goal scorers ever to wear the Red shirt.

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Plucked from South African outfit Transvaal in ’25, he would offer more than a decade’s service to the club. Only Roger Hunt has more league goals than then the Johannesburg-born forward. However, all 241 of Hodgson’s goals came in the top flight, as did his ludicrous club record of 17 hat-tricks.

By all accounts he was strong, quick and pretty handy with either foot. How much would he be worth in today’s bonkers market? A true legend and proof that not all Hodgsons are disasters.

3. Sadio Mane 2016 – Present Day

In 2016, Jurgen Klopp was linked with all manner of attacking players; mostly German World Cup Winners to be honest. It was with some surprise then, that Liverpool swooped for yet another Southampton star.

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Big money swapped hands with Liverpool splashing £34 million for the Senegal international. It was a pricey sum, but Mane rapidly put a smile on everyone’s faces and proved to be a superb investment. Offering an explosive injection of pace and skill, the Senegalese excelled from day one.

He was instantly a vital member of the side as Liverpool became the league’s entertainers. Goals, assists and an array of tricks saw a surge in anticipation from the Anfield faithful every time he got on the ball.

A natural wide player, some of Mane’s best work has come from when he has cut in from the flank. Displacing defenders and creating all manner of opportunity and space, Mane has become one of the bright lights of Klopp’s era at Liverpool. Its 37 goals and counting for Senegal’s finest.

2. Mohamed Salah 2017 – Present Day

The greatest Egyptian footballer of all time. A few years ago that would barely have registered with fans watching the Premier League.

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However, 63 games and 47 strikes later, and there is not a defender in the top flight not terrified by the Liverpool’s number 11.

Like Mane, there were a few question marks over the amount paid and the excitement generated by Mo’s arrival. The Italian league is not what it once was and despite Salah’s impressive stats in Serie A, he had failed to make any impact at Chelsea in eighteen months there.

Despite the pressure and the naysayers, Salah is one of the greatest success stories of all the club’s recent transfers. He looked tailor made for Klopp’s attack and the goals soon began to flow.

His pace, close control and wonderful eye for goal saw him register 44 goals last season. Top class individual efforts against Spurs and Everton were framed around countless wonderful finishes to team moves. Like all truly world-class players, half of the yards ran by Mo are in his head. The Kop purrs as their favourite has found a home to showcase his talent.

It is hard to imagine why the likes of Can and Coutinho bailed out on the club with such a superstar in their midst. If Liverpool are to return to the top under Klopp, there is no doubt whatsoever that Mo Salah would be integral to that success.

1. Bruce Grobelaar 1981 – 1994

Some of the headlines that blighted Bruce Grobbelaar in the nineties did much to soil his name.  It is important to remember, though, that despite the unsavory allegations, the Zimbabwe International was a fantastic servant between the sticks for Liverpool FC.

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His contribution to the club’s dominance of the eighties was massive and he quickly became a cult hero.  Like a lot of players, many remember him fondly for a singular moment in a very long career.  In Grobbelaar’s case, it was his wobbly legs antics in Rome in ’84 which helped Liverpool to a shootout victory over A.S Roma and bring home Number Four. Grobbelaar was an ever-present between 1981-1986 as he seamlessly took over the reigns from Ray Clemence.  During that period, he helped the club win an incredible nine major honours.

Not a flawless keeper by any stretch of the imagination; what Grobbelaar could offer was immense reflexes, hyper agility and a decisive presence in goal.  Yes, some of the decisions he made could be toe-curlingly rash, but it’s the indecisive, dithering ‘keepers that upset a back four the most.  Liverpool’s defence could at least rely on affirmative action from their stopper.

Thirteen years of service under four different managers and 628 appearances puts Grobbelaar in legend country.  If Salah or Mane can supplant him on this list, they will have done very well indeed.

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