We build our archetypal midfield man taking one component each from past greats on the continent.
Mahamadou Diarra’s positional discipline
Not everyone can seamlessly replace Claude Makelele in defensive midfield, but Diarra did just that for Real Madrid, finally bringing much-needed balance to the heart of the park that had been suffering since the Frenchman’s departure.
The Malian knew when to press or hold his position, when to tackle and when to stay on his feet.
His astuteness at reading the game was instrumental in Los Blancos winning two La Liga titles in 06/07 and 07/08, ending a four-year wait.
Mikel John Obi’s ball retention
The Nigerian rarely gets knocked off the ball and his ability to retain possession would be useful for any side.
Hardly one to succumb to a press, Mikel is more likely to win a free-kick for his side than to hand you possession on a platter.
This can be particularly useful in taking pressure off your team when under the cosh, or as a necessary tool in a possession-based system.
Michael Essien’s ball-carrying
A useful skillset for a team in transition, Essien’s driving runs from midfield became a trademark in his heyday at first Olympique Lyonnais and later Chelsea.
The Ghanaian’s change of pace with the ball at his feet was often breathtaking and it never got old watching him showcase this commendable part in his game.
Certainly useful when launching a counterattack, having a player with Essien’s expertise couldn’t be more advantageous.
Sulley Muntari’s long-range shooting
Muntari’s knack for belters from far out certainly stood out and he scored a fair share of goals from distance for his clubs and for the Ghana national team.
His strike for the latter in a 2010 World Cup quarter-final clash with Uruguay from more than 40 yards was astounding, while he notably scored two pile-drivers for Portsmouth away at Aston Villa in December 2007.
Never let Muntari line up a shot from far out, as it could spell doom for your side!
Jay-Jay Okocha’s flair, passing, creativity
Not every player has all the aforementioned attributes, but Okocha wasn’t ordinary to begin with.
The Nigeria wizard carried himself with a certain grace and flamboyance on the pitch, could spot a pass, and could also thread it through the eye of a needle.
This list was meant to pick one attribute from each player, but when you have Jay-Jay, a three-in-one superstar, you get a multi-talented showman in your midfield!
Yaya Toure’s goalscoring
There aren’t too many African midfielders in history who have ever scored as many in Europe as the Manchester City icon in his prime.
Toure scored several types of goals: tap-ins like an old-school poacher, late runs into the box like Frank Lampard, efforts from 20 yards or farther out, and even free-kicks.
The four-time African Footballer of the Year also netted great individual goals like the iconic strike against Aston Villa in 2014 on the penultimate matchday of the season.
Toure was not only a great goalscorer but a scorer of great goals.