3rd. Youssouf Fofana (CM)

Youssouf Fofana while with Monaco FC (Pic Cou: Getty Images – Bob Thomas)

Widely regarded as the most naturally gifted footballer Ivory Coast has ever produced, Youssouf Falikou Fofana began his professional career at just the age of 15 with ASEC Mimosas. Fofana went on to spend a total of three years at the club after making his debut in 1981. In those three years, he would help the club win the Cote d’Ivorie & the Felix Houphouet Boigny Cup both once in 1983. Fofana made his first foray outside his homeland by joining French Ligue 1 club, AS Cannes in 1984.

The Ivorian impressed in his first season with Cannes & his performances caught the attention of then AS Monaco coach Lucien Muller. Fofana made the switch to Monaco in 1985 & went on to remain with them for a total of 8 seasons till 1993. While he was a fringe player during his first two seasons with Monaco, his role within the team grew with the arrival of a young Arsene Wenger as coach[1] in 1987. During his stint with Monaco, Fofana would win the Ligue 1 title once in 1987/88 & the Coupe de France title once in 1984/85.

Upon leaving Monaco at the end of the 1992/93 season, Fofana went on to join fellow French club Bordeaux with whom he would spend a couple of seasons. After a short stint with Turkish club Karsiyaka in 1995, Fofana went on to play for  Saudi Arabian club Al-Nassar FC in 1995/96.His final playing days were spent with Mexican club Cruz Azul but the exact date of his retirement is unknown.

International Career

In 1982, Fofana became one of the youngest players to ever make their international debut as he featured in a West African Cup tie for the Ivorians at the age of 15 years & 204 days. Fofana was part of every Ivorian side that featured in the AFCON Championships between 1984 & 1992. He played his part in helping the Elephants to their first ever AFCON title in 92. To be fair, Fofana could have made a greater impact on Ivorian football if he hadn’t been marred by so many injuries.

2nd. Laurent Pokou (STR)

Once dubbed by Pele as his successor, Laurent Pokou like many others on this list began his professional career with hometown club, ASEC Abidjan in 1966. During his 7 years with the Mimosas, Pokou played a key role in helping them secure three Premier Division titles & 6 Cote d’Ivorie Cups. His immaculate goal-scoring record helped him earn a move to France in 1974 to feature for Stade Rennais. He became an instant fan favourite at his new club, especially thanks to his impressive scoring record of 44 goals in 63 games.

In the summer of 1977, Pokou went on to join AS Nancy as Rennais fell into financial difficulties. However, Stade Rennais fans started raising funds & eventually got back the player the first next season. Pokou’s second coming to Rennais was short lived and he found himself back at his hometown club within a season. Even his second coming at Mimosas wasn’t quite as successful in terms of trophies but he still was part of the Mimosas squad which won the League & Cup double in 1980. Upon leaving Mimosas for the second time, Pokou would go on to spend his final playing days with a lower tier Ivorian club Rio Sport-d’Anyama.

International Career

In an international career which spanned over a period of 13 years, Pokou represented the Ivorians in a total of 70 internationals, scoring a total of 19 goals in them. Pokou represented the Ivorians in a total of 4 AFCON Championships between 1968 & 1980. In the 1968 edition, Pokou emerged as the tournament’s top scorer with 6 goals in 5 games as Ivory Coast registered a 3rd place finish. He went on to repeat the feat in 1970 finishing as the tournament’s top scorer with a tally of 8 goals in 5 games as the Elephants settle for a 4th place finish.

Pokou’s tally of 14 goals in AFCON tournament finals was a record which stood for 38 years. Even as Samuel Eto’o surpassed the tally in 2008, he did so only in his 5th AFCON Championship. Pokou still holds the record for scoring the most number of goals in a single game in the AFCON Finals, a record he set against Ethiopia during the 1970 edition scoring 5 in a group stage fixture. Laurent Pokou completely stepped away from the game after his retirement and passed away recently due to illness.

1st. Didier Drogba (STR)

An incredible compilation of Drogba’s 164 goals for Chelsea: –

Unlike the others on this list, Drogba started his career in France after he & his family moved to the country in the early 90’s. Despite spending most of his youth career with a French semi-professional club Levallois SC, Drogba first grabbed attention as an academy product of Le Mans FC, who were a Ligue 2 club at the time. Having joined the club’s academy in 97, Drogba went on to make his professional debut with the club in 98. While there were sparks of his brilliance, Drogba was never able to cement his place with the Club during his 4 years with them.

Midway through the 2001/02 season, Drogba was signed by Ligue 1 club Guingamp for just 80,000£. Though he wasn’t fully convincing in the second half of the season, the Ivorian proved his worth during the 2002/03 season as he racked up a total of 21 goals in 39 games across all competitions. At the end of the campaign, he was signed by French giants Marseille for a fee of £3.3 million. The 2003/04 season would turn out to be his only season with the French giants, Drogba earned plenty of admirers as he slotted in a total of 32 goals in 55 games across all competitions. His efforts eventually saw him being awarded the Ligue 1 player of the award & helped earn a move to the Premier League.

Chelsea Legend

Chelsea fought off several European giants to sign the Ivorian for a whopping fee of 24£ million. Even though his first season with the Blues was marred by injuries, he still was able to slot in a total of 16 goals in 41 games, helping the blues to a League & Cup double. The 2006/07 stands out as one of his best in his career as he recorded a tally of 33 goals in 60 games across all competitions. He also helped the club secure a Cup double even scoring the winning the goals in both the FA & League Cup finals against United & Arsenal respectively. Drogba also won the Premier League golden boot for the first time with 20 goals in 36 appearances.

2009/10 marked another great season in Drogba’s career as he slotted in a total of 37 goals in just 44 games across all competitions. His 29 goals in the league not only helped him secure his 2nd Premier League Golden Boot but also helped the club win their 3rd Premier League title. In total Drogba would spend a total of 9 seasons with the English club which includes a brief return he made in 2014 after leaving the club for the first time in 2012. In his time with the Blues, he would win the Premier League title 4 times (2004/05, 05/06, 09/10 & 14/15), League Cup thrice (04/05, 06/07 & 14/15), FA Cup 4 times (06/07, 08/09, 09/10 & 11/12) and the Champions League once in 2011/12.

China, Turkey & the US

Following his first departure from Chelsea in 2012, Drogba joined Chinese side Shanghai Greenland Shenhua to feature in the Chinese Premier League. The following season, he would go back to Europe joining Turkish club Galatasaray. His two seasons with the club would prove to be highly successful as he helped the club win the Superlig title in 2012/13, the Turkish Cup in 2013/14 & the Turkish Super Cup in 2013. The 2014/15 season saw him returning to Chelsea as Mourinho wanted to someone to provide back-up to Costa & Loic Remy. Even though he had a decent season with Blues helping them to a number of trophies he left the club at the end of the campaign. Since leaving Chelsea for the second time, Drogba has been plying his trade in the MLS featuring for the Montreal Impacts[2].

International Career

In an international career which spanned over 12 years, Drogba represented the Elephants in a total of 104 internationals & scoring a record 65 goals in them. Despite his impressive record, Drogba was ever able to win any form of silverware with the Elephants. He did come close on two occasions, reaching the finals of the 2006 & 2012 AFCON Championships only to come out as 2nd best. Drogba has been named in the eventual team of the tournament in three AFCON tournaments (2006, 08 & 12).

The striker played an instrumental role in helping the Elephants reach their first ever World Cup finals in 2006, scoring 9 goals during the qualifying stages. Drogba has represented the Ivorians’ in all their World Cup appearances in date. He has been a two-time recipient of the African Footballer of the year award (2006, 2009) & has been named in five CAF Team of the year (2005,06, 09,10 & 12). To conclude not only will Drogba be remembered as one of Ivory Coast’s very best, he will also be remembered as one of the greatest African footballers of all time.

In case you want to go over the list again: Top 10 Ivorian Footballers – Part 1

External Resources

[1] skysports.com, Arsene Wenger on his pro-youth philosophy 

[2] mlssoccer.com, Drogba on his time with Montreal Impact