Many African nations have produced fantastic football players in the past 30 years but perhaps none more so than the Ivory Coast. Having been fairly anonymous before the turn of the century, the West African nation has since enjoyed a rich boom in talent, making them one of the best sides in Africa.
Some of the stars that have emerged from the country have gone on to rank among the most successful individuals in the sport, particularly in England. In fact 35 Ivorians have featured in the Premier League, with varying degrees of success with some stars breaking club records and others failing spectacularly for multiple reasons. So just who are the best and worst Ivory Coast players to feature in the Premier League?
The best and worst Ivory Coast players in Premier League history
Best Ivory Coast players
It’s amazing what a position change can do for your fortunes. When Kolo Toure joined Arsenal from Belgian side Beveren in 2002, he was primarily an attacking midfielder. It was Arsene Wenger who thought that the young Ivorian would better suited as a defender and made the switch happen and it was an excellent move.
Toure’s powerful physique and excellent ball control thwarted strikers up and down the country and allowed Toure to become a key part of Arsenal’s “Invincibles” squad in the 2003/04 season. He later joined his brother Yaya at Manchester City in 2009 and won another title in 2011/2012 before winding down with Liverpool in 2016. It was an in impressive career for one of the greatest Ivory Coast players in Premier League history.
Wilfried Zaha was torn between two sides when he was caught in a battle between representing England or Ivory Coast. After appearing for England in a couple of friendlies, Zaha eventually opted for the country of his birth representing the Ivory Coast despite having appeared one for England in a friendly.
Zaha’s career had stalled having first moved to Manchester United in 2013 where a lack of opportunities hindered his development. A move back to Selhurst Park in 2014 lit a spark in Zaha as he became Palace’s focal point and, since then, he has been a key reason for them staying in the Premier League with lightning pace, silky skills and the ability to finish.
His skills have seen him win Crystal Palace’s Player of the Season on 3 separate occasions as well as 2 Premier League Player of the Month Awards.
Yaya Toure proved to be one of Africa’s best footballers when he was starring regularly with Barcelona and Monaco although he failed to feature in a midfield that included Xavi and Andres Iniesta. Toure moved to England with Manchester City becoming a focal point of their midfield.
It was a successful move as he linked up with David Silva to develop a one-two punch that very few clubs could handle. Toure’s drive, pace and ability to strike from distance made him one of the best offensive players in the Premier League. His taste for goals was impressive scoring 59 times in 230 games including a 20-goal campaign in 35 game during the 2013-14 season. It underlines a great run for Toure who run 3 Premier League titles and was also awarded 3 African Player of the Year Awards during his time in Manchester.
It’s hard to think of Chelsea being successful without Didier Drogba leading the line. With a formidable blend of pace, power and precision, Drogba emerged as one of the leading strikers in world football throughout the 2000s. His knack to be in the right place at the right time meant Drogba regularly led goalscoring charts and his best return came in the 2009/10 season where he scored 29 goals in 32 games for Chelsea in the league.
It was this sort of form that helped Drogba become part of 4 title winning teams at Stamford Bridge during 9 years at the club in 2 separate stints. By the time Didier Drogba left England for good in 2015, he had broken several records in the league including most goals (104) and most assists (54) by an African player ensuring that he will always be remembered as an all-time great in English football and unquestionably one of the best Ivory Coast players ever and one who left a huge legacy.
Worst Ivory Coast players
Gervinho seemed a good fit when he moved to The Emirates in 2013 with many impressed by his form for Lille in Ligue 1. The mix of speed and drive was initially puzzling for some defenders but his lack of technical skills undermined most of his hard work. His biggest flaw was his finishing ability as Gervinho too often fluffed his lines at the critical moment missing chances when they seemed easier to score.
It eventually saw the winger demoted to a spot on the bench and struggled to break back into the first squad. Gervinho eventually left Arsenal for Roma in 2016 having scored just 9 goals in 46 appearances in a quest to resurrect his career.
Seydou Doumbia enjoyed a good reputation across European football, having impressed in both Switzerland and Russia so a loan move to Newcastle in 2016 could have been lucrative for both club and player.
Instead, it was a huge disappointment for all involved. Doumbia never convinced management that he was a leading figure and only made the odd substitute appearance every now and again. His poor finishing didn’t help either meaning that his short spell in England finished with 0 goals in just three games. A wasted venture for all involved and he is one of the most forgettable Ivory Coast players to grace the English shores.
Having enjoyed a decent run in France with Evian, Hull took a punt on Yannick Sagbo hoping he would transition easily to English football. That was not the case as the French-born Ivorian struggled with the physical nature of the Premier League.
He featured occasionally for The Tigers and often remained on the bench as a substitute. In his second season on Humberside, he struggled to maintain fitness and form whilst on loan with Wolves in the Championship. The two sides eventually parted ways less than 2 years into the deal with Sagbo opting to move Qatar with Umm-Salal.
You could earn up to £10 (or currency equivalent) in bonus funds by joining Colossus with our New Player Bonus. Click here to join the action.