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African players scaling success in Serie A

Victor Osimhen led in terms of goals in Serie A as an African player breaking the record from George Weah with the Nigerian’s strike against Fiorentina on 7 May scored his 47th in the Italian top flight, taking the Napoli striker past Liberia’s George Weah and making him the top African scorer in the league’s history.


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Let’s not forget a notable achievement given that former AC Milan star Weah, who is the only African ever to win the Ballon d’Or prize given to the world’s best footballer.

African players the record breakers

Osimhen and Weah are well-known record barkers, as do Ghanaian idol Abedi Pele, who won a Champions League title at Marseille before joining Torino in 1994.

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Samuel Eto’o, one of the main protagonists of Inter Milan’s treble in 2010, and Mohamed Salah, who was loaned to Fiorentina by Chelsea in January 2015 and then sold to Roma six months later.

Then there are the likes of Ghana’s Sulley Muntari, scouted by Udinese at 16 years of age and successful at both Inter and AC Milan.

Senegal’s Khouma Babacar also arrived at Fiorentina as a teenage youth prospect and went on to play for a further five Italian clubs over more than a decade in the country.

Serie A appearances record on African players

Kwadwo Asamoah tops Serie A appearances for an African player having turned out for Udinese, Juventus, Inter and Cagliari, played 279 times in Serie A, just eight ahead of his compatriot Alfred Duncan.

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Senegal skipper Kalidou Koulibaly comes next with 236 appearances for Napoli.

This season, 15 African nations have been represented in the top flight by a total of 45 players making at least one appearance.

Nigeria leads the way with eight players, followed by Morocco and Ivory Coast who each have six.

Four players have represented Ghana and Cameroon, three from Algeria, The Gambia, and Senegal, two from Equatorial Guinea and one each from Angola, Mali, Guinea, Zambia, Sierra Leone and Tunisia.

Top scorers

Zahoui was the first African to play in Serie A and Senegalese defender Roger Mendy was the first to score.

Having joined newly-promoted Pescara, he netted to help his side register a 2-0 home win against Brescia in February 1993 and ever since African goals have been a constant in the Italian football landscape.

Just behind Osimhen and Weah, Ivorian Franck Kessie managed 41 in 204 games for Atalanta and AC Milan before his move to Barcelona.

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Senegal striker Keita Balde also hit 41 for Lazio, Inter, Sampdoria and Cagliari.

The list continues as Cameroon legend Samuel Eto’o and Salah, each with 35 goals.

Astonishingly, four of the league’s top six scorers in Serie A are African in that Lautaro Martinez(20) is the man immediately behind Osimhen(23), but after the Argentine come to Senegal and Salernitana forward Boulaye Dia(16).

Nigeria and Atalanta wideman Ademola Lookman(13) ties with Rafael Leao(13) but Leao leads with the number of assists (8) making him fourth with Lookman fifth(5 ass), and Angola’s and Spezia’s M’Bala Nzola(13 goals and 2 ass).

In total, the four Africans have a combined 64 goals between them.

Let me bring to your attention that the last two winners of Serie A’s Player of the Year award are of African origin: Romelu Lukaku from Belgium and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Rafael Leao who plays for Portugal but is of Angolan descent.

Osimhen the record breaker

Osimhen overtaking Weah’s Italian goalscoring record did not go unnoticed in Africa. Indeed, the great man himself, now president of Liberia, offered “heartfelt congratulations”.

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“I am truly proud of your exploits,” the 56-year-old said in a statement on social media.

“When I won my first Scudetto with Milan, I said to myself, why one, why not two? I went on to win the Ballon d’Or. So why not two or more for you, Victor? The sky is your limit.

“There are many great African players in European leagues. They are already up against the hurdles of playing against many odds…so to beat the odds and climb to the top is worth our commendation.”

The pair are the only Africans to score at least 10 goals in three consecutive seasons, with Weah achieving the feat in campaigns ending between 1996 and 1998.

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Meanwhile, Osimhen’s tallies over the last three seasons have grown in conjunction with Napoli’s league finishes: 10 goals and fifth place in 2020/21; 14 goals and third place in 2021/22; 23 goals and the long-awaited Scudetto triumph this season.


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