Farewell Mark Noble: Who are Africa's one-club men?

Noble, Khune, OdegbamiGetty Images
  • Mark Noble West Ham 2021-22Getty Images

    Mark Noble: The Premier League's one-club man

    One-club men are an increasing rarity in modern football, where fewer and fewer players breakthrough with their boyhood club and then remain with the same team for their entire career.

    Mark Noble, who's set to play his final game for West Ham United on Sunday, is the latest player to call time on his career after playing for just one professional club on a permanent basis.

    He follows in the footsteps of Jamie Carragher, Gary Neville, Paul Scholes and Ledley King to begin and end his career with the same team.

    In African football, it’s even more of a rarity, with the best players being drawn away from the continent to try their hand in the European game.

    Here are five players who remained true to their first employers, and can be considered among the continent’s finest one-club men.

  • Segun Odegbami

    Segun Odegbami

    One of Nigeria’s greatest players, Odegbami was unfortunate to miss out on qualifying for the African Legends Cup of Nations, but can nonetheless look back on a superb career in domestic and international football.

    He was a Nations Cup winner with the West African giants in 1980—the Eagles’ first success—having been part of the squad that had reached the final four two years’ previously.

    Odegbami—nicknamed Mathematical—was one of the standout performers of a squad that contained the likes of Muda Lawal and Henry Nwosu, and was once runner up for the African Footballer of the Year award.

    He played the entirety of his club career with Shooting Stars, winning three domestic titles, showcasing the qualities that twice put him in the Afcon Team of the Tournament.

  • Mahmoud al-Khatib Al Ahliegypt

    Bibo El-Khatib

    The only one of this list to have qualified for the African Legends Cup of Nations, Bibo is a genuine icon at Al-Ahly, Africa’s most successful club.

    Indeed, few figures have been as central to the Egyptian giants’ current place within the continental game, and their modern standing.

    Between 1972 and 1988 he spent the entirety of his career with the Red Devils, largely dominating the Egyptian top flight during that time while winning a swathe of honours on the continent.

    Today, he’s the President of Ahly, and no one could ever question his loyalty to the Cairo heavyweights.

  • Happy Jele of Orlando Pirates, August 2019BackpagePix

    Happy Jele

    A modern great of the South African game, Jele has featured for domestic giants Orlando Pirates for the entirety of his career, having made his debut in 2006.

    The 33-year-old has blossomed into a fine club captain, wearing the armband with pride, and became a crucial figure at the club alongside veterans like Siyabonga Sangweni and Lucky Lekgwathi.

    His leadership qualities are evident every time he steps on the pitch, and Jele’s influence over the new arrivals and youngsters who join the Buccaneers is clear.

  • Christian ChukwuGetty Images

    Christian Chukwu

    Another member of Nigeria’s 1980 Afcon-winning team, Chukwu captained that side, and will always have a place in history as the first Eagle to lift African football’s grandest prize up high.

    That victory came on his third Nations Cup appearance—he was twice a defeated semi-finalist in the 1970s—and also won the tournament MVP award at the 1980 tournament on home soil.

    He spent the entirety of his club career with domestic giants Enugu Rangers, winning four league titles and four cups with the Flying Antelopes.

  • Itumeleng Khune of Kaizer Chiefs

    Itumeleng Khune

    One of Africa’s finest keepers this century, Khune first joined Kaizer Chiefs as a youngster in 1999, and after making his debut for the Amakhosi in 2004, has gone on to represent the domestic giants for 16 years.

    It’s a remarkable achievement, and demonstrates an admirable measure of loyalty for a player who surely had the quality to play in Europe.

    Khune’s leadership skills shine through in every performance—even if he has suffered with injury in recent years—while his fabled distribution is surely the best you’ll see from an African stopper.