• Thursday, 13 June 2024
The Africans who have scored success in Italy

The Africans who have scored success in Italy

Victor Oshimen of SSC Napoli smiling following his team victory at the end of the Serie A match against ACF Fiorentina at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona Naples Italy on 7 May 2023.
Victor Osimhen has mesmerised Napoli fans this season while his goals have been instrumental in the club claiming a first Scudetto in 33 years

In a season of landmarks, Victor Osimhen's latest goal in Serie A brought him another record.

The Nigerian's strike against Fiorentina on 7 May was 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 - a notable achievement given that former AC Milan star Weah is the only African ever to win the Ballon d'Or prize given to the world's best footballer.

 

But the two goal-hungry forwards are far from the only Africans to make a mark in Italy. BBC Sport Africa takes a look at some of the facts and figures for players who scored success after crossing the Mediterranean.

The trailblazer and the record breaker

By and large, African players arriving in Italy can be divided into two categories: young prospects and established stars.

Osimhen and Weah fall squarely into the second category, as do Ghanaian idol Abedi Pele, who won a Champions League title at Marseille before joining Torino in 1994, 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.

Inter Milan's Cameroonian forward Samuel Eto'o (R) and Inter Milan's Ghanaian midfielder Sulley Ali Muntari celebrate after winning the UEFA Champions League final football match Inter Milan against Bayern Munich at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on May 22, 2010. Inter Milan won the Champions League with a 2-0 victory over Bayern Munich in the final at the Santiago Bernabeu. Argentine striker Diego Milito scored both goals for Jose Mourinho's team who completed a treble of trophies this season.
African duo Sulley Muntari (left) and Samuel Eto'o (right) enjoyed Inter Milan's greatest season (2009-10) winning Serie A, Coppa Italia and Champions League titles before also claiming the Fifa Club World Cup

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, and Senegal's Khouma Babacar, who 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.

But you might not have heard of the first African ever to feature in the Italian league.

Francois Zahoui, a 19-year-old striker from Ivory Coast, made his Serie A debut for Ascoli against Fiorentina on 28 October 1981.

He played 11 times across one season, often being given the unusual task by his manager, Carlo Mazzone, of coming onto the pitch as a late substitute and deliberately getting caught offside to waste time.

Rumour has it the teenager turned up for his first training session barefoot, just as he was used to doing back home, but he went on to put his stamp on Ivorian football as coach of the men's national team between 2010 and 2012, as well as having spells in charge of Niger and Central African Republic.

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