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African All Stars

Football Manager: Remembering the game’s 10 greatest African legends

10:32 WAT 20/03/2020
Taribo West - Inter (1998)
They may not have all lived up to the hype, but these players still leave FM fans misty-eyed

In light of the coronavirus outbreak, and with a thought for those quarantined or in self-isolation at home, the team at Sports Illustrated have thoughtfully made Football Manager 2020 free for all users for seven days.

It's a move that should help any football fan starved of their favourite sport in light of the Covid-19 lockdown, and those who find themselves with a lot of time on their hands.

In tribute to some of the previous editions of the popular game franchise, and as an ode to some of those players who set gamers' hearts aflutter, we've put together a list of our favourite African Football Manager legends....all of whom had the potential—in-game—to inspire your team to breathtaking heights. 

Taribo West

An absolute ‘must sign’ on Championship Manager 2001-02, where West could often be found as a free signing and an immediate upgrade on your defensive options.

At 27, he was in his prime, and ready to step in and make an instant impact in the heart of the backline.

In real life, West is arguably as well known for his colourful hairstyles as for his playing career, where he represented both Milan clubs and was an Olympic gold medallist with Nigeria’s Dream Team in 1996.

 

Tonton Zola Moukoko

Despite being born in Kinshasa, Moukoko was erroneously described as Swedish-Ghanaian on Championship Manager, although any would-be head coaches who bought him would have no quibbles about his true origins.

The wonderkid could be signed from Derby County for roughly half a million, and would develop into one of the greatest players in the (virtual) world. His pace, dribbling ability and crossing quality made him near impossible to defend against...or resist signing.

In real life, however, things didn’t go to plan, as tragedy—Tonton’s elder brother passed away while on a trip to Africa—struck and derailed the youngster’s career.

He spent time in Finland and Sweden, but called time on his career at 28 before founding his own club—Kongo United FC.

 

Henri Saivet

Once destined to be the ‘New Thierry Henry’, Saivet was a gem on Football Manager 2008, where he’d thrive as an attacking talent boasting acceleration, pace and finishing ability.

In reality, after having a limited impact as a forward at Girondins de Bordeaux, he was reconverted into a box-to-box role and finally established himself in elite football.

He never achieved anything like to the success that was expected of him, and things haven’t worked out at Newcastle United, although he was part of the Senegal squad that reached the Nations Cup final in 2019.

 

Ibrahima Bakayoko

Any Everton-supporting Football Manger fans must have been delirious when the Toffees signed the Ivorian striker and natural leader for £4.5 million in 1998.

According to the game, the hitman was a perfect blend of power, pace and finishing, and he appeared destined to fire the Toffees up the table.

Four goals in 23 appearances later, and he was on his way, having failed to recreate his international form with the Ivory Coast—30 goals in 45 outings—or his world-beating qualities on FM.

 

Junior Khanye

The South African wideman seduced gamers on FM05, where his dribbling and flair made him an attractive—and cheap—option on the left flank.

If you could get through the work permit red tape, and put up with a certain measure of inconsistency, Khanye would terrorise full-backs for fun.

Having represented Kaizer Chiefs as a youngster, Khanye also played once for South Africa, but his career spiralled as fame and fortune derailed his time with the Amakhosi.

 

Cherno Samba

Perhaps the greatest legend in Football Manager history, Samba was the most exciting wonderkid on the fabled Championship Manager 01/02, where he could be purchased from Milwall for a bargain fee.

The 16-year-old would evolve into one of the game world’s finest talents, and was capable of almost single-handedly guiding your team to glory.

Despite being considered an equal of Wayne Rooney during his time with England’s youth teams, Samba never lived up to the hype, and spent his career in Scandinavia, Greece and Spain.

The ultimate ‘Champ Man legend’, he represented The Gambia on a handful of occasions.

 

Khouma Babacar

Babacar isn’t as obscure as some of the players on this list—he’s still playing in Serie A after all, having spent the last six years consistently in the Italian top flight.

However, he hasn’t come close to living up to the heights that were expected of him when he burst onto the scene as a 16-year-old in Football Manager 2010.

Back then, he was the jewel in the crown of La Viola’s academy, and destined to become the new Didier Drogba. It’s a great disappointment that—to date—the 26-year-old has only made two appearances for Senegal.

The towering striker is currently on loan at Lecce from Sassuolo.

 

Yaya Sanogo

Emerging as a genuine prospect in FM11, the edition after Babacar broke onto the scene, Sanogo was another tantalising prospect due to his movement, height and finishing abilities.

When Arsenal signed him in real life in 2013, there was some expectation that this Football Manager fairytale would finally come true in the Premier League.

Unfortunately, he was released four years later, having failed to score a top flight goal for the Londoners, and is currently with Ligue 1 strugglers Toulouse, having made three appearances on loan at Ajax.

Despite representing France at U-21 level, Sanogo remains eligible for the Ivory Coast.

 

Nathan Delfouneso

A wonderkid at Aston Villa, the parallels with another Anglo-Nigerian speed merchant Gabriel Agbonlahor were hard to overlook when he emerged on FM.

Delfouneso was even named on a list of 20 future England stars by The Guardian in 2008; we suspect the writer was an avid Football Manager fan.

However, while Agbonlahor registered over 340 league appearances for the Midlanders, and won three England caps, Delfouneso remains an unfulfilled talent.

He never built on his 18 England U-21 appearances, has never been called up by Nigeria, and is currently in his fourth stint at Blackpool.

Since the 2015-16 season, the 29-year-old has been a regular in the third and fourth tiers of the English game.

 

Lebohang Mokoena

An elite finisher on FM 2006, the pacey Mokoena brought South African mzansi flair to the table, and could be an excellent impact substitute.

He was similarly highly rated—if not to the same extent—in real life, but never quite lived up to the hype at Orlando Pirates, Mamelodi Sundowns or Ajax Cape Town.

Now 33, Mokoena signed for fallen giants Swallows FC in 2019.