=7) Didier Drogba (Ivorian) – £24 Million
Transfer (2004): Lyon to Chelsea
Didier Drogba’s career could have been incredibly different but for West Ham’s relegation from the Premier League in 2003. The East London club had agreed a fee with Guingamp to sign Drogba if they remained in the Premier League. Instead the Ivorian remained in France for two more seasons and excelled in the Ligue 1, joining mega-rich Chelsea from Marseille rather than West Ham from Guingamp. Although Drogba was not prolific during his early years at Stamford Bridge, he soon became indispensable to the team.
His crowning moment came during his final appearance during his first stay at the club, scoring the equaliser and winning penalty in the shootout as Chelsea beat Bayern Munich in the Champions League final. This was followed by a spell in China with Shanghai Shenhua, where Drogba earned a rumoured £200,000 a week, and a season at Turkish giants, Galatasaray, before returning to Chelsea last summer.
The Ivorian spent much of this season acting as backup for Diego Costa, and announced before the last game of the season that he planned to leave the club for a second time for one more year of first team football. He has since been linked with a number of sides in the MLS.
7) Michael Essien (Ghanaian) – £24.4 Million
Transfer (2005): Lyon to Chelsea
Top of our list is one time winner of the BBC African Player of the Year award, Michael Essien. The Ghanaian became the most expensive African footballer of all time when Jose Mourinho signed him for Chelsea from Olympique Lyonnais in the summer of 2005. Essien had finished the previous season as the winner of Ligue 1 Player of the Year, which goes some way to explaining the size of the fee Chelsea were willing to pay.
The Ghanaian’s time at Chelsea was very successful, winning the Premier League twice, FA Cup four times and Champions League, as well as being named Chelsea Player of the Year in 2007. The latter period of his time in the Premier League saw him struggle with injury and he spent the 2013 season on loan at Real Madrid, linking up again with Jose Mourinho. He signed for Panathinaikos this month following a year and a half at AC Milan where he managed only 22 appearances for the struggling giants of Serie A in all competitions.