Africa’s Champions League winners: A history

Three of Africa’s stars could add their names to the list of the continent’s Champions League winners when Juventus and Real Madrid in Cardiff on Saturday.

But who are the African greats who have won Europe’s grandest prize?

In this feature, KweséESPN present a complete history of Africa’s Champions League winners.

1984: Africa’s first European champion was Zimbabwe international Bruce Grobbelaar, whose heroics during the 1983-84 season have gone down in Liverpool folklore as the Reds won their fourth continental crown.

The eccentric 59-year-old made 628 appearances for the Merseysiders, but none were more important than his final performance against AS Roma, when his ‘wobbly legs’ technique led to both Bruno Conti and Francesco Graziani missing their spotkicks after a 1-1 draw.

1987: Three years after Grobbelaar’s antics against Roma, Rabah Madjer of Algeria played a similarly influential role in FC Porto winning their first European crown.

The North African struck a magnificent back-heeled equaliser for the Portuguese heavyweights as they drew level with Bayern Munich in the 77th minute before Juary struck a winner soon after.

To date, he remains the only North African to win the title, although Medhi Benatia could become the second on Saturday.

1993: Perhaps only George Weah can rival Abedi Pele for the title of Africa’s greatest player of the 1990s, but while the Liberian came up short with AC Milan in their pursuit of the continental gold, the latter was a winner in 1993 with Olympique de Marseille.

Many of the achievements of that OM side were tarnished by subsequent revelations of a bribery scandal, but the remarkably gifted Pele — father of Andre and Jordan Ayew — was certainly deserving of his winner’s medal.

1995: Nigeria produced two winners in 1995, with Nwankwo Kanu and Finidi George two dazzling talents in the excellent and largely homegrown Ajax side of the mid-90s.

The duo were part of Nigeria’s Golden Generation — with Finidi winning the Nations Cup in 1994 — although featured as Ajax were defeated by Juventus in the 1996 final.

2000: Geremi ended Africa’s half-decade wait for a European title in 2000 when he was part of the Real Madrid side — albeit as an unused substitute — as Los Merengues thumped Valencia 3-0.

The Cameroon international also won Olympic Gold and the Nations Cup in 2000, the most successful year of his career.

2001: Perhaps the defining career of Sammy Kuffour‘s career is the Ghana defender thumping the turf in despair after Manchester United’s comeback denied Bayern Munich the Champions League in 1999.

However, the Black Star made amends for that failure two years later when Bayern beat Valencia 5-4 on penalties. Kuffour also won six German titles and the 2001 Intercontinental Cup in Bavaria.

2002: Having won La Liga in 2001, and the Nations Cup earlier in the year, Geremi completed his trophy-laden stay with Real with another UCL triumph in 2002.

The Spanish giants’ second success in two years came courtesy of Zinedine Zidane’s stunning final volley against Bayer Leverkusen — one of the finest goals in the competition’s history — although Geremi wasn’t named in the matchday squad.

2004: South Africa’s first — and to date only — European champion is Benni McCarthy, who played 12 minutes of the 2004 final as Jose Mourinho’s FC Porto beat AS Monaco 3-0 in Gelsenkirchen.

McCarthy bagged four goals during the Portuguese heavyweights’ European run, before moving onto England — with Blackburn Rovers and West Ham United.

2005: Djimi Traore of Mali was the only African to feature in Liverpool’s miraculous Champions League triumph in Istanbul in 2005, as Rafael Benitez’s side came back from three goals down to draw 3-3 before defeating AC Milan on penalties.

The defender was something of a comedic figure during his time at Anfield — rarely looking like he had the quality to hold his own for a European giant — but he contributed a vital goalline clearance during the second half to ensure cult-hero status on Merseyside.

2006: Barcelona ended their 14-year wait for the continental crown in 2006, when Frank Rijkaard’s side came from behind to beat Arsenal at the Stade de France.

Samuel Eto’o was the star of the show, and won the first of his hat-trick of titles with a Man of the Match display, netting a 76th-minute equaliser before Juliano Belletti equalised four minutes later.

2009: Three years later, and Barca were again the team to beat in Europe, with Pep Guardiola refining Rijkaard’s fine team to forge perhaps the greatest club side ever seen in world football.

Eto’o, soon to depart, remained at the club, and struck the opener in the 2009 final against Manchester United as the Catalan giants withstood an early storm before running out 2-0 winners.

Yaya Toure and Seydou Keita also featured for Barcelona.

2010: Two of the Champions League’s more unlikely winners clinched the title in 2010, when Jose Mourinho’s Internazionale picked up an unexpected title when they downed Bayern Munich 2-0 at the Bernabeu.

McDonald Mariga became Kenya’s first winner, although his eight performances during that campaign remain his career pinnacle. The brother of Tottenham Hotspur’s Victor Wanyama hasn’t kicked on since the beginning of the decade — with injuries playing their part — and he was relegated from the Italian second tier with Latina this season.

Ghana’s Sulley Muntari — another player not typically considered among the continent’s greats — came on in the final, while Eto’o — employed out on the right flank — was one of the side’s key men.

In winning another European title — his third — Eto’o became both Africa’s most successful player in the competition and one of only a select few players to have won the UCL in back-to-back seasons with different clubs.

2011: In perhaps the zenith of Guardiola’s time in charge of Barca, the Catalan giants won their fourth European title after a rampant 3-1 victory over Manchester United (again) at the new Wembley.

Mali’s Keita — a favourite of the manager — was again introduced late on as a substitute en route to winning his second winner’s medal.

2012: Chelsea became the first club from London to win Europe’s grandest prize in 2012 when they beat Bayern Munich on penalties on their own patch.

It was arguably Africa’s finest moment in the competition’s history, with Ivorian great Didier Drogba not only netting a late equaliser to keep Chelsea in the contest, but also converting the decisive penalty following Bastian Schweinsteiger’s miss.

That Blues squad was littered with fine African talent; John Obi Mikel and Salomon Kalou both started the final, with Michael Essien an unused substitute.

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