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2014 World Cup countdown: Top 10 Ghanaian footballers of all time

Published on: 08 May 2014
Ghana is blessed with a lot of talented players worldwide

As part of the countdown to the FIFA World Cup in Brazil, Sports Mole journalist Barney Corkhill takes a look at the top 10 players in the history of Ghana.

By Barney Corkhill

Ghana are relatively new on the scene but have already made a big impression. With their first appearance coming in 2006, they captured the imagination in Germany before being a kick away from the semi-finals four years later.

They have now qualified for the tournament three times in a row and have fast become Africa's biggest hope of competing with the powerhouses from South America and Europe.

Despite their recent success on the world stage, however, Ghana have not won the Africa Cup of Nations since 1982 and face a big ask to progress from the group stages in Brazil.

Here, to continue our countdown to the World Cup, Sports Mole looks at the top 10 players in the history of Ghanaian football.

10. Stephen Appiah (1995-2010, 67 caps, 14 goals)

Midfielder Stephen Appiah in action for Ghana on June 13, 2010.

Stephen Appiah was one of the men at the heart of the Ghana national team during their recent revival, playing a big part in their first two appearances at the World Cup finals. He captained them in 2006 and was a member of the squad in South Africa four years later too.

At club level, the midfielder enjoyed success with Juventus while also featuring for the likes of Udinese, Parma and Bologna in Italy. He went on to spend a three-year stint with Fenerbahce, where he won the Turkish Super League.

Individually, he was named as Ghana's Footballer of the Year on two occasions and was also included in the All-Star teams for both the 2004 Olympics and the 2006 Africa Cup of Nations.

9. Asamoah Gyan (2003-present, 77 caps, 39 goals)

Ghana's forward Asamoah Gyan reacts at the end of penalty shoot out of the 2013 African Cup of Nations semi-final football match Burkina Faso vs Ghana, on February 6, 2013

While he may be remembered by Sunderland fans for a brief and topsy-turvy stint at the Stadium of Light at the start of this decade, Asamoah Gyan is highly regarded as one of the key components of the recent golden era of Ghanaian football.

Having joined Sunderland for a club-record fee from Rennes, Gyan has since moved on to Al Ain in UAE. Following a brief sabbatical from international football in 2012, the 28-year-old returned to captain the side and is expected to lead them out in Brazil for his third World Cup tournament.

A two-time Ghana Player of the Year and one-time Ballon d'Or nominee, Gyan is perhaps harshly remembered for missing a crucial penalty for the Black Stars in the 2010 World Cup. Ghana were awarded a spot kick in the last minute of extra time against Uruguay, but Gyan struck the crossbar and the South Americans went on to reach the semi-finals via a penalty shootout.

8. Sulley Muntari (2002-present, 79 caps, 19 goals)

Ghana's Sulley Muntari takes on England midfielder Gareth Barry on March 29, 2011.

Another member of the Ghana squad to have plied his trade in the Premier League, Sulley Muntari is amongst the most decorated players to have pulled on the Black Stars shirt. He is expected to feature in his third World Cup this summer having also played and scored in the 2006 and 2010 tournaments.

One of those goals came in the 2010 quarter-final against Uruguay that Ghana went on to lose on penalties despite late drama in extra time, while the other helped them to a 2-0 win over Czech Republic.

At club level, Muntari won the FA Cup with Portsmouth and also played for the likes of Udinese, Sunderland and his current club AC Milan. It was at Inter Milan that he enjoyed his greatest success, however, as he helped them to an unprecedented treble of league, cup and Champions League in 2010.

7. Ibrahim Sunday (1966-77, 20 caps, eight goals)

Ibrahim Sunday's career had an air of always the bridesmaid, never the bride about it as he reached two Africa Cup of Nations finals, only to lose in both. The defeats were undoubtedly harder to take considering he had scored in the semi-finals on both occasions.

His performances with the national team and club side Asante Kotoko earned him a move to Bundesliga outfit Werder Bremen, although his time in Germany was mostly spent on the bench.

His talent was recognised on the world stage, however, as the winger was given the African Footballer of the Year award in 1971, just one of three Ghanaians to ever claim the accolade. He was also named among the 50 greatest African players of the 20th century by the International Football Federation of History and Statistics.

6. Mohammed Ahmed Polo

While his own claims that he was "better than Lionel Messi" are wide of the mark, there is no doubt that Mohammed Ahmed Polo was one of the most gifted and technically sound players in Ghana's history.

Nicknamed the 'Dribbling Magician', the left-winger was one of many players to feature for Hearts of Oak in the Ghanaian Premier League before a move to Dubai, where he quickly became a hero of the Al Wasl fans.

His greatest success came on the international stage, however, as he helped the Black Stars to victory in the 1978 Africa Cup of Nations. Three years previously, he was named as the Ghanaian Player of the Year, becoming the inaugural winner of the award.

5. Karim Abdul Razak (1975-88, 70 caps, 25 goals)

Another member of the 1978 side that won the Africa Cup of Nations, Karim Abdul Razak played a major role in Ghana's success by scoring two winning goals during the tournament. The first came against Zambia in the opening round before he netted the only goal in a 1-0 victory over Tunisia in the semi-finals.

After winning that crown, Razak, nicknamed 'The Golden Boy' moved to America where he played alongside World Cup winners Franz Beckenbauer and Carlos Alberto for New York Cosmos.

Individually, Razak won the 1978 African Footballer of the Year award, becoming the second of just three Ghanaians to ever be given the honour. He was also ranked as the 31st-best African footballer and third-best Ghanaian by the International Football Federation of History and Statistics, while the Confederation of African Football included him as one of the 30 best players in their history in 2007.

4. Tony Yeboah (1985-97, 59 caps, 29 goals)

Former Leeds United striker Tony Yeboah in action for Ghana against Zaire on January 28, 1996.

English fans will remember Tony Yeboah well for his two-year stint with Leeds United, which was sprinkled with Goal of the Season contenders that helped him to earn cult hero status at Elland Road.

The striker also played for FC Saarbrucken, Eintracht Frankfurt and Hamburger SV during his time in Europe, establishing himself as a clinical finisher and ending top of the Bundesliga scoring charts in 1993 and 1994. He was voted Leeds's Player of the Year in 1996 and one year later earned the accolade of Ghana's Player of the Year.

He also finished in the top three in the African Footballer of the Year awards on two occasions and was voted as high as ninth in the FIFA World Player of the Year awards in 1993.

3. Samuel Kuffour (1993-2006, 59 caps, three goals)

Former Bayern Munich defender Samuel Kuffour in action for Ghana against Italy on June 12, 2006.

Despite only making one appearance for Ghana at the 2006 World Cup, Samuel Kuffour burst onto the world scene at the tender age of 15 when he became the youngest Olympic football champion in history with the Black Stars' bronze at the 1992 Games.

The central defender is best remembered for his time with Bayern Munich, where he made almost 250 appearances and won 17 major trophies during a 12-year stay. Amongst those trophies were six league titles, four cups and a Champions League, while he also featured in the unsuccessful 1999 Champions League final, memorably beating the ground in frustration after Manchester United had scored twice in stoppage time to win the trophy.

Individually, he was twice named as runner-up in the African Football of the Year awards and was also nominated for the Ballon d'Or in 2001. He is a three-time Ghanaian Footballer of the Year and was included in the Confederation of African Football's top 30 African players of all time.

2. Michael Essien (2002-present, 52 caps, nine goals)

Michael Essien celebrates scoring for Ghana on March 26, 2008.

At his prime with Chelsea, Michael Essien was regarded as one of the best midfielders in world football. The versatile Ghanaian could also play at the back, where he was often employed by Jose Mourinho during his loan spell at Real Madrid.

Having become the most expensive African footballer of all time with his move from Lyon to Stamford Bridge, Essien quickly established himself as a key member of the national team. He featured in the 2006 World Cup but was unlucky to miss out four years later due to injury.

The 31-year-old has won four league titles and seven domestic cups in two different countries, while also being part of the Chelsea squad that won the Champions League in 2012. Individually, he was named the Ghanaian Player of the Year in 2008.

1. Abedi Pele (1982-98, 67 caps, 33 goals)

Abedi Pele in action for Ghana on January 19, 1996.

The undoubted king of the Ghanaian national team, Abedi Ayew is known throughout the football world as Abedi Pele due to comparisons with the Brazilian legend of the same name. That goes some way to showing how highly regarded he was during an illustrious career that saw him amass numerous individual accolades.

He was a three-time winner of African Footballer of the Year, winning the award consecutively from 1991-93. He was also twice nominated for the FIFA World Player of the Year award, finishing ninth in the voting in 1992. The International Football Federation of History and Statistics named him as the third-greatest African player of the 20th century, while he was also the only Ghanaian included in the FIFA 100.

His greatest success at club level came with Marseille, where he won the Champions League in 1993 having been on the losing side in the final two years previously. He also won three Ligue 1 titles with the French side, although the last of those was revoked due to a match fixing scandal.

Do you think this is the list of Ghana's all time best? Should Stephen Appiah rank higher? Make your views known in the box below:


This article has 27 comment(s), give your comment
  • senior agogo says:
    May 09, 2014 12:06 pm
    tony was bogus useless striker .abedi is a football legend give him that due respect
  • OneKingvasco says:
    May 09, 2014 07:11 am
    U are confused.marseille on two occasions went to champs lge finals and won one. Abedi pele no doubt is the greatest.
  • OneKingvasco says:
    May 09, 2014 07:15 am
    Abedi have even scored more goals than yeboah in the national team if u are talking abt goals,bro be abrest with time and come again.
  • OneKingvasco says:
    May 09, 2014 07:16 am
    Abedi have even scored more goals than yeboah in the national team if u are talking abt goals,bro be abrest with time and come again.
  • KWABENA PISO says:
    May 09, 2014 07:45 am
    Let's show some respect to Essien. He deserves to be in the top ten. He scored against south Africa in 2006 world cup qualify. I remember his equalizer for Ghana against Nigeria at afcon 2008. He put up man of the match performance on two occasions in 2006 world cup of the three games he played. He deserves to be in the top ten.
  • misr says:
    May 09, 2014 08:35 am
    I think he has done a good job. The problem is where Micheal Esien is placed. Stephen Appiah should be there
  • CRABMAN says:
    May 09, 2014 08:43 am
  • Emeka says:
    May 09, 2014 09:27 am
    I think he's done great for ghana he deserved a great honour tho.
  • Bayzee says:
    May 09, 2014 04:09 am
    Ds list is accurate, I think. Though a lot of gr8 players hv donned d Black Star's jersey, Abedi Ayew, Tony Yeboah, Sammy Kuffour & Stephen Appiah hv all made remarkable contributions to d Ghana National Football team. Better still, Abedi Ayew is undoutedly the greatest Ghanaian player of all time. As Ghana is endowed with gr8 football talents, there r a lot of oustanding in-form & up coming players to carry d Ghana flag high in football in d future. Kwadwo Asamoah, Dede Ayew, Sulley Muntari, Inkoom, Boye, Dauda etc, are all making their mark on the world stage. Long live black stars long live ghana*****
  • Africanus says:
    May 09, 2014 02:32 am
    Brother you forget that Anthony Yeboah was a striker while Abedi was a midfielder. It is therefore normal for Yeboah to score more goals cos that is his role. A midfielders role is to ensure that the ball flow smoothly from defense to attack, and Abedi was influential in that regard, plus he also managed to score goals.
  • Heman says:
    May 09, 2014 02:29 am
    Nana(RSA) Nana during our match against Nigeria in '92 , abedi didn't score it's rather prince polley that scored both goals. To be sure u can check it out in utube I thought so as well that pele scored the first goal
  • Mannie says:
    May 08, 2014 07:59 pm
    Abedi Pele is not overrated. Yes, Tony Yeboah scored lots of goals in his foreign clubs. he is a striker.. he is supposed to score goals. He is also a deadly striker, no doubt. This is how influential a player was in the ghana national team.. I don't think Tony Yeboa was more influential on the national team than Abedi... For a midfielder, he scored a lot of goals..
  • simon says:
    May 08, 2014 08:18 pm
    Essien should be out of the top ten
  • Nana(RSA) says:
    May 08, 2014 08:28 pm
    May be in another sport but in football Abedi Ayew Pele is far better than Tony Yeboah. Where was Tony Yeboah in our match against Nigeria when Abedi was scoring without looking at the ball in Senegal 92? Where was he in our match against Zaire? I can never forget that fantastic goal scored by Pele. Tony was good but Abedi was the best. Love him or hate him but Abedi was a superstar.
  • kuy says:
    May 08, 2014 08:57 pm
    Talkin abt chelsea alone Essien is # two but not with b stars Tweaaa! Apuutorr!
  • JPEG says:
    May 08, 2014 09:21 pm
    Please show some little respect to Essien, he played major role on all our World Cup qualifications and made Ghana proud in Europe and the world.. Ghanaians and Africans have very short momeries
  • askantwi says:
    May 08, 2014 10:26 pm
    There were so many great ploayers that did not play abroad, who were much better than Abedi Pele; Players like Adolf Armah, Kofi Badu, Francis Kumi, Robert Mensah, Kuuku Dadzie, John Yawson, Baba Yara, Osei Kofi, Mohammed Polo, Opoku Nti etc. Even Anane Kobo whose career was cut short by voodoo would have been much better than Abedi. They both come from the same team RTU. Micahel Essien don't come even close to the top 10. I'll pick John Essien much ahead of him. Not to mention Joe Carr, Sam Ampeh, Offei Ansah, Hesse Odamten and Opoku Afriyie.
  • Mark says:
    May 08, 2014 11:04 pm
  • mukmin says:
    May 08, 2014 11:19 pm
    Anybody who this Abedi is overated is a joke go watch senegal 92 again on tape, and then their champion league final triumph against arguably the most talented club team ever arrigo sacchi's ac milan where he overshadowed legends like van basten, gullit, rikjaard, baresi and them. The first african player to win the cup winners cup or champions league, three consecutive african player of the year award? Come again. He is the undisputed king of ghanaian football. Almost every goal of his was a highlight I have friends from france who talk about him up until today. He put Ghana on the map early. Anyone who says Essien is not in the top 5 cannot be serious either in his prime Essien was the most dominant midfielder on the planet very underated probably because he is not white but between 2004 to 2009 Essien was the reason most people who had never heard of Ghana knew about us. Just look at his goals against barca and arsenal goals of the highest quality against players of the highest quality.
  • Alex Tupac II says:
    May 08, 2014 11:24 pm
    ABEDI AYEW PELE was, is and would continue to be de best ghanaian footballer of all time. He was de most influencial player in de blackstars and also part of de dangerous fantastic trio at marseille including himself, chris waddle and didier deschamp. He was de man-of-de-match when marseille won their first champions league cup. He is de only ghanaian player in FIFA's best 100 players of all time* He is a legend, a hero, a superstar and a pele! Go and watch his clips on youtube and then u would see de proof. I WILL DIE FOR ABEDI PELE!
  • Edward, Maryland says:
    May 08, 2014 05:13 pm
    Which periods are you talking of? Where is Osei Kofi and where is Kuuku Dadzie? Give us a time frame. You either are too young or too biased.
  • ghanabapa says:
    May 08, 2014 06:29 pm
    Essien cannot be second. What has been is contribution to the national team, ahead of Kuffour, Appiah, Olele, Robert Mensah, Frimpong Manso, Osei Kofi, Wilberforce, Eddy Ansah. Your analysis was not thorough
  • OHENENANA says:
    May 08, 2014 07:02 pm
    Abedi Pele has been overrated to much personally I think Anthony Yeboah was a better player he was regular goal scorer in the premier league and the bundles Liga two of europes best club competition abedi played in France at that time there where not that much good teams there only marseille and lyon
  • Lawrence Afoakwa says:
    May 10, 2014 07:24 am
    You have been very unfair to Oseii Kofi and Robert Mensah who were household names on the continent. Till date people who saw their performances ask about them when one travels across Africa Why did we name a stadium after him and why do you think we won many silver wares during their time.? We called Osei the Wizard and the and , Nigerians called him the man with 3 feet,, the Congolese at one time demanded the game tto be stopped because they suspected Robert was using "juju". Osei could single handedly change the outcome of many games in favour of Kotoko and Ghana. They played and defeated teams from across the globe including Europe. Teams from Europe would have been happy to have Osei, infact he turned down an offer. Those were the days the white people thought we were good for nothing. they helped knock down fences and opened the door for Africans to play in Europe. You are wrong to put even Abedi ahead of them. just because he played in Europe.. You may not be the right person to make this list if you are young and did not see what really happened.
  • Derbile Augustine says:
    May 11, 2014 01:17 pm
    Twaaaa to so call essien, he's not dedicated to de country so can not even be ranked 20 in de list. Are u essien's campaign manager or what, twaaaa to u, twaaaaaaaa to essien, infact twaaaaaaaaaaaa to 2 of u and any one who support essien's position on the top ten list.
  • FOREIGNER says:
    June 02, 2014 03:56 pm
    looking critically at the life time archivement of Osei Kuffour, why should Essien be rated above him?
  • Isaac Tetteh says:
    August 26, 2014 04:09 pm
    All of them have at least once lift the flag of Ghana high. Ghanaian, let's appreciate what they have done and are doing for our loving country, Ghana. We should not underrate anyone's effort. I ask, what are we also doing to lift the flag of Ghana on high?