Can Salah or Mane replace Drogba as Africa’s greatest player?
Didier Drogba became the most synonymous player out of Africa to star in the English Premier League in the early 2000s due to his dominance with Chelsea. With the Blues, the Ivory Coast international won the Premier League four times and the Champion League once in two spells with the club. He won the Premier League Golden Boot on two occasions and was announced in the Premier League Hall of Fame in 2022 in honor of his achievements. He is widely regarded as the best player from the African continent to play in England’s top flight. However, his position is under threat from Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané.
Both players have surpassed his goal tally this term, with Salah edging in front of his teammate. Mané and Salah will both be determined to notch their second Premier League title win, being backed as underdogs at +180 in the Premier League winner odds to win the crown ahead of Manchester City. Titles are just as important as records in the legacy of all three players. Drogba was a serial winner at Chelsea and raised his game in the biggest moments, none more so than the Champions League final when he scored the decisive equalizer and then penalty to win the crown for the Blues.
Salah has already had a defining moment in the Champions League final, converting from the penalty spot in Liverpool’s 2-0 win over Tottenham in 2019. Mané has risen to the occasion in many big matches during his six seasons at Anfield, including a massive strike in the Premier League against Manchester City in the 2-2 draw at the Etihad Stadium.
Mané won the Golden Boot in the 2018/19 campaign, whereas the year before, Salah won the award by scoring 32 goals in his maiden term with the Reds. There has been little to separate the two players in the final third. Salah has benefitted from taking penalties, which has boosted his goal tally, but in terms of importance, Jurgen Klopp would be hard-pressed to say which of Mané and Salah would be more difficult to replace in the ranks.
Drogba, on the other hand, was a tough act to follow even though Diego Costa did his best in two campaigns, while his other was inconsistent, to say the least. The Spain international eventually faded out drastically, and even though the club has spent significant sums in the transfer market, a long-term replacement for Drogba has been hard to come by. No one has been able to replicate his brilliance and longevity for the Blues in the final third. At times he embodied the spirit of the side, providing a reassuring presence alongside John Terry and Frank Lampard in the spine of the team.
As a result, history may just give him the edge over Mané and Salah for now, although a second Champions League and Premier League crown may tip the balance. The development of Luis Diaz may also count against the brilliance of Mané and Salah, proving that any player of quality can slot into the Klopp system and thrive. The standard of competition in the Champions League is also inferior to the days when Drogba was at his peak, when Chelsea had to contend with Manchester United, Liverpool, Barcelona, and Real Madrid.
Salah and Mané have the records, but the reputation of Drogba may take some shifting as the greatest player to emerge from Africa to have graced the Premier League.
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