Bought for peanuts Radebe honoured among top 100
Harare ‑ Lucas Radebe was bought for peanuts, to provide company for his fellow South African Phil Masinga, the striker that Leeds United really wanted, but 20 years after his arrival in Yorkshire, the Chief is just one of four Africans named among the 100 English Premiership players of all-time.
The Daily Telegraph panel of experts – Henry Winter, Alan Smith, Jason Burt, Mark Ogden, Jeremy Wilson, Chris Bascombe, Luke Edwards, Jim White and Jonathan Liew – named Radebe as the 78th best player to grace the 23 years of the English Premiership.
Not bad for a player for whom Leeds paid just £250 000, as part of the English club’s plans to ensure that Masinga, whom they coveted, would not feel homesick.
But while Masinga never made an impression at Elland Road, being traded to Italian club Bari after just two years, Radebe stayed at Leeds United for more than a decade and was even honoured with a testimonial, at the end of a glittering career.
“If Nelson Mandela names you as a hero, you know you’ve made an impact,” the Daily Telegraph said to support their decision to name Radebe as one of the 100 best players.
“Radebe was, indeed, an icon in his native South Africa, and he was similarly beloved at Leeds, where he was a colossus at the heart of their defence.
“As captain, ‘The Chief’ helped Leeds regularly finish in the top four in the early 2000s, while he was also a tireless campaigner against racism.”
Radebe played 197 games for Leeds United and was the only Southern African footballer, among those who have graced the English Premiership in the past 23 years, to be named among the best 100 players.
“A lot of people were sending messages, e-mails about how I have made them proud,” Radebe told SuperSport TV after learning that he had been named among the top 100 football stars to grace the Premiership.
“It absolutely feels fantastic, great, to know that your contribution in the game is being appreciated.”
Radebe didn’t only make an impression on journalists, who vote for these All-Star awards or his club officials who made him skipper but left his mark on some of the iconic figures of the world, like the late South African president Nelson Mandela who, on a visit to England and having spotted the football star in the crowd during a reception, told the guests, “This is my hero.”
Peter Ndlovu, the Zimbabwean who spent more than a decade playing in England and was, at one stage, compared with the legendary George Best, will surely be disappointed that he didn’t make the list despite illuminating the Premiership.
Another Zimbabwean, goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar, who won the European Cup with Liverpool during a glittering career, was in the twilight stage of his career when the Premiership came around, playing just the final two seasons of his Reds stay in the era of the modern Premiership.
He also played for Stoke, for just one season, and two seasons for Southampton, in the era of the Premiership but his star was fading and the “Jungleman” will probably not complain that he wasn’t included on this list.
Peter Schmeichel, the great Manchester United ‘keeper, is named the best ‘keeper of the Premiership era on a list that includes Edwin van der Sar, Tim Howard, Pepe Reina, David James, Joe Hart, David Seaman and Peter Cech.
Didier Drogba was named the best of the African player to have graced the Premiership, rated the 15th best player in the top 100.
Drogba played 230 games and scored 100 goals for Chelsea.
“If Didier Drogba did not exist, English football would have had to invent him: as a bruising, rangy, razor-sharp striker, he might as well have been built in a laboratory at Premier League HQ,” the Daily Telegraph said.
“The Ivorian was the perfect spearhead for Jose Mourinho’s new model Chelsea, capable of brushing aside the attentions of the most formidable defenders to wreak havoc himself and bring others in to play.”
Another Ivorian, Yaya Toure, was named the second best African player to grace the Premiership, sitting on 19th place in the top 100.
“Surprisingly sold by Barcelona at the peak of his powers, the Spanish club’s loss has certainly been Manchester City’s gain, with Toure proving to be the central figure in the two Premier League titles to have been won at the Etihad,” the Telegraph said.
Nigerian midfield magician, Jay Jay Okocha, is the other African on the list at 93rd place.
“The Nigerian international was one of many eye-catching signings made by Sam Allardyce at Bolton in 2002 and he instantly became a fans’ favourite,” the telegraph said.
“Bolton went from perennial relegation battlers to European football during his four years there, with Okocha giving the lie to the perception that Wanderers relied on brute force to succeed. As Bolton fans put it in one of their chants, he was ‘so good they named him twice’.”