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African All Stars

Ansu Fati & Africa-born players ‘lost’ to Europe

01:13 GMT+3 18/12/2019
Ansu Fati Spain Portugal
Ahead of El Clasico, Goal's Ed Dove ranks the great African players who represented European nations

  • Ansu Fati Barcelona Valencia La Liga 2019

    Ansu Fati

    Guinea-Bissau-born Fati has been one of the revelations of the season so far, breaking records aplenty at Barcelona after making his debut earlier in the campaign.

    While Fati was born in Africa and only moved to Europe as a child, he appears primed to represent Spain at international level, having already represented La Roja’s U-21 side on the back of his fine form this term.

    The wondekid won’t be the first African-born talent to represent a European nation, and in this slidelist, we rank our top five players born on the continent but who represented Uefa countries at senior level.

  • Patrick Vieira Nice Ligue 1

    5. Patrick Vieira

    The current OGC Nice coach enjoyed almost 15 years playing with some of Europe’s biggest clubs, from AC Milan to Arsenal, from Juventus to Manchester City.

    He also made over 100 appearances for France, and won both the World Cup and the European Championships at the turn of the century.

    However, it could have all been so different had Dakar-born Vieira represented the land of his birth, Senegal.

    Vieira, who was part of the France team defeated by the Teranga Lions during the 2002 World Cup, could have also represented Cape Verde via his mother.

  • Patrick Vieira Marcel Desailly France 14062004

    4. Marcel Desailly

    The Accra-born powerhouse could have enjoyed an international future with Ghana—where he would have been a marvellous partner for Samuel Kuffour in the heart of the Black Stars’ defence—but instead forged his reputation with France.

    The 51-year-old was a World Cup winner in 1998—albeit receiving a red card in the final—and also clinched the European Championship two years later.

    He made over 300 league appearances with Chelsea, but previously enjoyed success with Olympique de Marseille and AC Milan—winning the Champions League with both giants.

  • Claude Makelele

    3. Claude Makelele

    Despite amassing 71 caps for France having made his debut in 1995, Makele missed out on the World Cup triumph of ’98, although he did reach the final eight years later.

    He redefined the defensive midfield role—it’s subsequently named after him—and enjoyed extensive success at Real Madrid and Chelsea.

    Born in Kinshasa, the capital of the present-day Democratic Republic of Congo, Makelele moved to France as a youngster.

  • Mario Coluna, Benfica

    2. Mario Coluna

    Mozambique-born Coluna was one of the finest central midfielders of the 1960s—perhaps the best—earning the nickname ‘The Sacred Monster’ for his dominant and energetic displays in the heart of the park.

    He spent 16 years at Benfica, winning 10 Portuguese titles and the European Cups of 1961 and 1962—ending Real Madrid’s dominance of the competition in the process.

    Coluna, who was born in Mozambique, represented Portugal at the 1966 World Cup, where they reached the semi-finals, and made World Soccer’s World XI for four consecutive seasons.

  • Eusebio

    1. Eusebio

    One of the greatest players in the game’s history, Eusebio is an icon at Benfica, with whom he won the European Cup in 1962 alongside Coluna, and also top scored at the 1966 World Cup as Portugal finished third.

    However, the attacker—who was famed for his speed, athleticism, fierce right-footed shot and agility—was born in present-day Maputo, the capital of Mozambique.

    Eusebio is almost certainly the greatest player ever born on African soil; he passed away in 2014 aged 71.