One thing is clear over the years: African footballers have left an indelible mark on LaLiga. And with plenty of talented current and former African players, it’s no surprise that many of them have played for more than one LaLiga club. With the LaLiga Santander season is currently underway and the players are making up for lost time due to the pandemic, let’s shine the spotlight on some of LaLiga’s most remarkable African players.
From humble beginnings to football legends, these players made such an impression on the league that they were recruited to play for more than one club.
1. Samuel Eto’o
Clubs: Real Madrid, RCD Mallorca, and FC Barcelona
Years active: 1997–2000, 2000–2004 and 2004–2009
Cameroonian Samuel Eto’o is rightfully considered among the greatest strikers in the history of world football and is often referred to as one of the greatest African players of all time. He moved to Spain at the age of 16 and quickly took the football world by storm, going on to lead Cameroon to victory at the Africa Cup of Nations in 2000 and 2002. He was even honoured with an Olympic gold medal in 2000!
2. Jorge Mendonça
Clubs: Atlético de Madrid, FC Barcelona, and RCD Mallorca
Years active: 1958–1967, 1967–1969 and 1969–1970
Jorge Alberto Mendonça, who was born in the Angolan capital Luanda, made history by becoming the first African player to play for Barcelona. He led an impressive career, appearing in more than 200 matches and helping Atlético de Madrid achieve five major titles, before retiring in 1970.
3. Mutiu Adepoju
Clubs: Real Sociedad and Racing Santander
Years active: 1992-1996 and 1996-2000
Nigerian born Mutiu Adepoju spent most of his professional career in Spain, starting out by playing on Real Madrid’s B team in 1989 before breaking out onto the scene at Real Sociedad and Racing Santander. He eventually moved to Saudi Arabia’s Al-Ittihad Club, before he returned to Spain with UD Salamanca and retired in 2006.
4. Seydou Keita
Clubs: Sevilla FC, FC Barcelona, and Valencia CF
Years active: 2007–2008, 2008–2012, 2014
Bamako native Seydou Keita first moved to LaLiga in 2007 after signing a four-year deal with Sevilla. From there he went from strength to strength as a versatile midfielder. He made it through injuries, wins, and losses – and becoming a fan favourite in Seville, Barcelona and Valencia – before retiring at the age of 37. Keita won three LaLiga Santander titles, two Champions Leagues and three Copa del Reys during his time at the Camp Nou.
5. Geoffrey Kondogbia
Clubs: Sevilla FC, Valencia CF, and Atlético de Madrid
Years active: 2012–2013, 2017–2020, 2020–present
Born in France, Kondogbia started his career at Lens then signed with Sevilla at the age of 19. After a few years between France and Italy he returned to Spain joining Valencia firstly on loan, a move that turned permanent in 2018. Later in 2020, Kondogbia joined Atleti on a four-year contract after the club was granted an exception to sign him outside of the transfer window. The defensive midfielder has also turned out for both France and the Central African Republic national teams. He’s a key player in Atleti’s title charge this season, with Simeone keen on his all-round abilities in the middle of the park.
6. Youssef En-Nesyri
Clubs: Málaga CF, CD Leganés, and Sevilla FC
Years active: 2016–2018, 2018–2020 and 2020-present
A native of Fes, Morocco, Youssef En-Nesyri may be the youngest player on our list, but he’s made quite the name for himself in the last five years. Not yet 25, he’s already represented his country twice at the Africa Cup of Nations. The Moroccan is on fire for Sevilla right now, having scored an impressive 13 goals in 23 appearances this campaign.
For years, the best football league in the world, LaLiga, has been nurturing the growth and development of talented African footballers. A quick glance at our list only proves that their dedication to uplifting the African continent is something that they’ll always strive to achieve.