The best of the best in Ghanaian football
The Black Stars of Ghana are in the upper echelon of national teams on the African continent, and their record backs that up.
4 continental triumphs, 5 silver medals, and 1 bronze medal illustrate the standards that Ghana are known for in competition- and the continent’s best players usually consist of a few Ghanaians.
The nation of 30 million have never lacked talent or depth, making this list a difficult one!
Regardless, those on this list distinguished themselves for their national team for a long period of time, or for a short but highly successful period of time. Here are Ghana’s best-ever football players.
1. Asamoah Gyan
Ghana’s most-capped and top goalscoring player of all-time, Asamoah Gyan is undoubtedly The Black Stars’ greatest ever player. His senior international debut came on 16th November 2003 at the age of 17. Gyan was then in his second season as a pro, and first at Italian side Udinese.
Gyan scored on his debut, netting in the final minute of a 5-0-win versus Somalia. After making his mark in his first game, the marksman became a regular in Ghana’s squad from that moment forward.
Gyan had earned 10 caps by the end of 2005 and was scoring regularly for Ghana, with 8 goals scored in the caps earned. This guaranteed the striker’s place in his nation’s 2006 World Cup squad. At the World Cup, Gyan played 3 of his nation’s 4 games as Ghana reached the RO16 at their first-ever WC appearance.
He performed well at the tournament, scoring the opening goal of Ghana’s win versus the Czech Republic in the group.
Gyan’s WC performance illustrated he could perform at a high level, and this got him back in the first team with Udinese after a few seasons out on loan. After amassing 7 caps between post-WC and end of 2007, as well as scoring regularly in Serie A, the marksman was called up for the 2008 AFCON.
At the tournament, Gyan played 4 of the Black Stars’ 6 games as Ghana earned a bronze medal, with the striker netting once, in the opening goal versus Guinea in the group stage.
The striker’s performances at international tournaments brought increased recognition, and led to a move to French side Rennes in the summer of 2008. Gyan initially struggled in France, but at least continued to perform for Ghana, earning 5 caps in 2009 with 2 goals scored.
By the 2010 AFCON, Gyan was also performing for his club, and on his way to 10+ league goals prior to his call-up for the continental showcase.
At the tournament, Gyan played all of his side’s games, scoring 3 times as Ghana earned their fourth-ever silver medal on the continent. His goals included winning goals in the QFs and SFs. Gyan’s performances earned him a place in the team of the tournament.
Next was the World Cup 4 months later, where the striker continued to shine. He played all 5 of Ghana’s games, scoring 3 goals as the West-Africans reached the QFs in only their second-ever WC appearance.
Gyan’s goals were all significant; the winning goal versus Serbia in the group stage, the equaliser versus Australia in the group still, and the winning goal versus USA in the RO16. The marksman’s goalscoring displays for club and country earned him a move to the EPL and English side Sunderland after the World Cup.
His World Cup display also certified his status as a national icon. After earning another 10 caps in the period between the 2010 WC and 12 AFCON, with a 10-goal EPL season in between, Gyan was called up for the 2012 continental showcase.
The marksman played 5 of his side’s 6 games at the tournament, scoring once as Ghana progressed deep into the tournament only to finish fourth in a slightly disappointing showing from The Black Stars.
Gyan missed a penalty kick in the 1-0 SF loss to Zambia, which led the distraught striker to retire from international football after the tournament. He would retract that decision 3 months later.
Fortunately for Ghana, the next AFCON was the next year in 2013. Gyan was called up, and he also made captain. He played all 6 of his side’s games as Ghana finished fourth once again, scoring once.
Despite now playing his club football in the Middle East, Gyan continued to earn caps for his country, with 14 in 2013 alone. As a result, he was called up for his third WC appearance.
At the tournament, Gyan captained his side in all of The Black Stars’ games as Ghana failed to exit the group stage at WC for the first time. He performed well individually though, scoring twice in 3 games to become Ghana’s highest-ever goalscorer at World Cups (6 goals).
Next was the 2015 AFCON only a few months after the WC, and Gyan was called up once again as he was captain of the team. The striker played 4 of his side’s 6 games as Ghana reached the final only to lose on penalties again at the 1992 AFCON.
Gyan netted once, the winning goal versus Algeria in the group. Determined to win silverware with his country, Gyan refused to retire afterwards.
At the 2017 African Cup of Nations, Ghana came 4th for the 4th time in continental history (and 3rd out of their last 4 continental appearances). Gyan, then playing for Turkish side Kayserispor, played 5 of Ghana’s 6 games, scoring once- the winning goal versus Mali in the group stage.
Gyan initially retired from international football in May 2019, but after conversations with the Ghanaian president, reversed his decision. The 2019 AFCON would be Gyan’s last major international tournament.
He played 2 of Ghana’s 4 games as The Black Stars exited in the RO16, a massively disappointing display from the team. Gyan failed to score, which was understandable, considering he was now 34-years old.
The marksman retired from international football after the tournament. A poacher with good anticipation and even better composure, Asamoah Gyan was often the man for big occasions
Gyan was also a penalty specialist, and he used an array of finishes. Headers, volleys, 1v1s, penalties: he could score them all. The marksman is a 1x African Footballer of the Year (2010) and 2x Ghanaian Footballer of the Year (2010,2014).
2. Abedi Pele
Position: Attacking Midfielder / Forward
Abedi Pele is one of Africa’s greatest ever footballers. Father to Andre Ayew, Abedi Ayew was nicknamed ‘Pele’ due to his natural ability on the ball, and the attacker ensured he lived up to the name during his career. Pele’s senior international debut came on 2nd August 1981 aged just 16-years old.
Abedi was then just starting his second season at Ghanaian side Real Tamale United. Initially sporadic, Pele began to get more game-time in the national setup in 1982, earning 5 caps that year prior to being called up to the 1982 African Cup of Nations.
At the tournament, the attacker played 4 of Ghana’s 5 games as the Black Stars triumphed on the continent for the first time. Despite not scoring any goals, Pele’s early success undoubtedly shaped his mentality later on. Pele’s next major international tournament was the 1992 African Cup of Nations a decade later.
By this point, the forward was more of a veteran, having amassed 40 caps with 6 goals accompanying them. He was also then in his fourth season at French giants Olympique Marseille, and experiencing his best season as a pro.
At the 92 AFCON, Pele had a barnstorming tournament, playing 4 of Ghana’s 5 games and netting 3 goals as the West-African nation finished with a silver medal. His goals were the winning goal versus Zambia in the group, the winning goal in the QFs, and the opening goal of the SFs versus Nigeria.
Pele’s displays earned him the player of the tournament award, as well as a place in the team of the tournament.
The 1992 AFCON performance cemented Abedi’s status as a superstar in the national setup, making him undroppable. After earning another 5 caps between late 1992 and the end of 1993, Pele was called up to represent Ghana at the 94 AFCON.
Despite playing all of his nation’s games, he failed to score at the tournament. The Black Stars were disappointing as well, exiting in the QFs.
Despite his club form being inconsistent at the time, Pele continued to perform in Ghanaian colours whenever called upon. He only earned 3 caps in 1995, but Abedi was called up for Ghana’s 1996 AFCON campaign. At the tournament, the attacker played 4 of Ghana’s 6 games as the Black Stars finished 4th place.
A valiant display from the collective was also propelled by Abedi’s quality, as he scored 3 times including the opening goal on two occasions. The forward’s efficiency in front of goal was rewarded with a place in the team of the tournament.
Abedi Pele’s last international tournament was the 1998 African Cup of Nations. Ghana unfortunately performed terribly at the tournament, exiting in the group stage. Pele played all 3 games, failing to score. He retired from international football after the tournament, aged 33 years-old.
Similar to Jay-Jay Okocha and Ronaldinho in natural flair, Abedi Pele was poetry in motion whilst in possession. Blessed with electric speed and fantastic close control, Pele could also be a playmaker when necessary. His movement was instinctive and his attacking positioning was brilliant.
For a forward/midfielder, his heading ability was elite, while his composure in front of the goal was akin to a striker. He is one of the most mercurial talents Africa has ever produced.
3. Andre Ayew
Position: Striker / Winger
A man known for big moments in the Black Stars jersey, their current captain Andre Ayew has had a fantastic career, and his father Abedi is undoubtedly proud of him. His senior international debut came on 7th August 2007 at the age of 17.
Ayew was then in his first season as a pro at French giants, Marseille. Ayew immediately became a regular, with 5 caps earned by the end of 2007.
The attacker was then called up to the 08 AFCON, where he came off the bench a few times but failed to score.
In 2009, Ayew would captain the U20 team to victory at the African Youth Championship and the U20 World Cup. After experiencing men’s football adequately with 2 loan spells and international caps, Ayew was called up to the Black Stars’ 2010 AFCON squad with a bit more pedigree to his name.
At the tournament, Ayew played all 5 of Ghana’s games as The Black Stars earned silver in a gritty collective display. Playing as a wide player in a 3-5-2 or 4-4-2, he netted once- the winning goal versus Burkina Faso in the group stage.
His improved display earned Ayew a place in the squad of the tournament.
Next was the 2010 World Cup four months later, where Ayew once again played a major part in Ghana’s successful campaign. Playing on the left wing, Ayew played 4 of Ghana’s 5 games as The Black Stars reached the QFs, their best-ever WC performance.
Ayew’s man of the match performance versus USA in the RO16 earned praise from many. 5 caps in 2011 as well as scoring frequently for Marseille in 11/12 ensured Ayew was called up for the 2012 AFCON. At the tournament, the forward played all 6 of his nation’s games, scoring twice as Ghana earned their first continental bronze medal.
Playing as a striker in a 4-4-2 alongside his brother Jordan, or Asamoah Gyan, Ayew scored once in the group stage and an extra-time winner in the QFs. Due to a dispute with the Ghanaian FA, Ayew retired from international football in February 2013.
He later overturned that decision 7 months later to help his team qualify for the 2014 World Cup. At the World Cup, Ayew played all 3 of The Black Stars’ games, scoring 2 goals. Unfortunately, Ghana exited in the group stages.
Next was the 2015 AFCON six months later. As he was fit, Ayew was called up by the Black Stars. Playing as a left winger in either a 4-4-2 or 4-2-3-1, Ayew played all 6 of his side’s games, scoring 3 goals as Ghana earned their 5th silver medal at the continental showcase.
A fantastic individual performance with highlights such as the winning goal versus South Africa in the group stage and a goal in the SFs earned Ayew the golden boot and a place in the team of the tournament.
Ayew’s performance at the 2015 AFCON as well as good club form earned him a move to EPL side Swansea City. He hit the ground running at the Welsh side, scoring 12 league goals in 34 games during the 2015/16 season.
Despite earning only 2 caps in 2016, Ayew was called up for the 2017 AFCON due to his good EPL form and fantastic record on the continent.
At the tournament, the forward played all 6 of his side’s games, scoring twice as Ghana came 4th, their 6th consecutive run to the continental semifinal. Playing on the flanks of either a 4-4-2 or 4-3-3-, Ayew netted winning goals in the group stage versus Mali and the QFs versus Congo.
His last major international tournament was the 2019 AFCON, and it was his first as captain. Playing on either the flanks or #10 in a 4-2-3-1, or up front in a 4-4-2, Ayew scored once in 4 games as Ghana exited in the RO16, a dismal display from The Black Stars.
A player who has scored in 6 major international tournaments, Andre Ayew has achieved something even the great Abedi couldn’t manage. A dynamic dribbler with a fierce shot, Ayew also possesses fantastic positioning and anticipation, with the wherewithal to finish with either head or foot.
A 1x African Footballer of the Year, Ayew’s underrated quality is his leadership, something the forward exhibited even in his youth.
4. Tony Yeboah
A striker who possessed one of the fiercest shots ever seen in football, Tony Yeboah was a joy to watch both at home and abroad. His senior international debut came on 17th February 1986 at the age of 19. Yeboah was then in his fifth season as a pro, and second at Ghanaian side Cornerstones Kumasi.
Already an established professional, Yeboah impressed in his debut, and continued to feature for the Black Stars afterwards with an added 8 caps in 1986.
His first international tournament was the 1992 African Cup of Nations. Yeboah had continued to be a regular in the national team in previous years, earning 30 caps but only scoring 4 goals.
Although he performed impressively on a regular basis, the attacker still needed final product to convince his fellow countrymen of his quality. At the tournament, Yeboah formed a lethal partnership with the legendary Abedi Pele.
He played all 5 of his side’s games, netting twice as Ghana earned silver in heartbreaking fashion; losing 11-10 on penalties to the Ivory Coast.
Yeboah’s goals included the winning goal versus Egypt in the group stage and the opening goal of the QFs victory versus Congo. His 92 AFCON performance earned him a place in the team of the tournament. After proving himself to his team and country on the big stage, Yeboah was now a key member of the Black Stars.
After earning another 5 caps, the marksman was called up for the 1994 AFCON. At this point, Yeboah was also performing excellently in Europe, having scored over 50 goals for German side Eintracht Frankfurt in the 3 years he had played there.
At the tournament, the attacker played 2 of his side’s 3 games, failing to find the net as Ghana exited in the QFs, a poor display for a team of their stature. Yeboah’s final international tournament was the 1996 AFCON.
By this point, the marksman had been at English side Leeds for over a year, having scored 12 EPL goals in his first season for the Yorkshire club. At the 96 AFCON, Yeboah played all 5 of his nation’s games, scoring twice as Ghana earned bronze.
His goals were the opening goal in the win versus Ivory Coast in the group stage and the winning goal versus Zaire in the QFs.
As a result of his impressive displays and important goals, Yeboah was included in the team of the tournament. His last international game was in June 1997, aged 31.
A 2x winner of the Bundesliga golden boot (92/93, 93/94) and 1x winner of Leeds’ Player of the Year (1996), Tony Yeboah scored the best volleys you will ever see.
Blessed with immense power on both feet, Yeboah almost always struck the ball sweetly inside and outside the penalty box. His ball control and dribbling were underrated, as well as his ability to maintain accuracy in his shots despite the power in them.
5. Willie Mfum
One of Ghana’s most underrated players of all-time, Wilberforce Mfum was a marvel every time he stepped out onto the pitch for club and country.
His senior international debut came on 10th September 1960, while the attacker was still in the academy of Ghanian giants Asante Kotoko; he was 23-years old at the time.
Immediately becoming a regular within the Black Stars’ setup, Mfum had earned 10 caps by 1963, which earned him a place in Ghana’s 1963 AFCON squad.
At the tournament, Mfum played all 3 of his nation’s games, scoring once as Ghana triumphed for the first time on the continent. The attacker’s performance solidified his place in the national team.
He earned another 5 caps in 1964 before getting a call-up to represent his country at the 1964 Olympic Games. Mfum played all 4 of Ghana’s games, netting once as The Black Meteors (The U23s) reached the QFs in a valiant display. His final international tournament was the 1968 AFCON.
At the 68 AFCON, Mfum had a career tournament, playing all 5 of The Black Stars’ games with 5 goals to accompany his displays as Ghana earned a silver medal. Included in his tally was an equalising goal versus Senegal in the group; the winning goal versus DR Congo in same group and the match-winning brace versus Cote D’Ivoire in the SFs.
The forward’s display somehow didn’t win the golden boot as Laurent Pokou of the Ivory Coast scored 6. Regardless, Mfum almost singlehandedly pushed Ghana to a third consecutive AFCON triumph.
The 1968 AFCON was his final international tournament, retiring afterwards aged 31. He was captain of the national team on his retirement. Lethal in front of goal, composure was Mfum’s most valuable skill, whilst his finishing skills guaranteed goals.
He is a player who deserves more recognition.
Michael Essien, Charles Akonnor, Samuel Kuffour, Osei Kofi, George Alhassan, Edward Acquah, Opoku Nti, Stephen Appiah, Sulley Muntari, Ibrahim Sunday, Ben Acheampong, Opoku Afriyie Kwasi Owosu, Mohammed Polo, Karim Abdul Razak, Kwame Ayew, Junior Agogo, John Paintsil, Robert Mensah, Kwadwo Asamoah, Richard Kingson, Badu, John Mensah, Harrison Afful, Jordan Ayew, Akwasi Appiah, Isaac Asare and Mubarak Wakaso.