Cote d’Ivoire’s Eric Bailly joins a stellar list of Africans who have thrived under the ‘Special One’

By: Sammie Frimpong

Rising Cote d’Ivoire defender Eric Bailly was officially unveiled last week as the first signing of Jose Mourinho’s tenure at Manchester United and, as fans of the Red Devils may soon realize, there couldn’t have been a better start to life under the great Portuguese.


But Bailly is only one of a number of Africans Mourinho has had to count on in becoming the success he is. Here are five of the best:



Nineteen goals in 35 appearances in his breakthrough season at Olympique Marseille seduced Mourinho into forking out £24m, then a club-record fee, for Ivorian Didier Drogba. The striker wasted no time in repaying the faith the manager had reposed in him by churning out some impressive performances, culminating in the club winning a first-ever English Premier League title in half-a-century. After nine years at the club (spread across two separate spells), scoring for fun in finals and winning 10 trophies in the process, Drogba continues to stand out as one of Mourinho’s smartest coups.



The South African permanently joined FC Porto in Mourinho’s second season at the club (having been there earlier on loan) but ended up outlasting the ‘Special One’ by two years. During their fling in 2003/04, though, the pair struck a winning partnership, picking up the Uefa Champions League and the Portuguese championship. It definitely represented the highest peak in McCarthy’s career and the fact that it coincided with the period when Mourinho was just starting to get famous probably made it even more memorable.



Neccessity forced Mourinho to bring in lanky Togo forward Emmanuel Adebayor, starved of opportunities at Manchester City, to fill some of Real Madrid’s goalscoring needs in the latter half of the 2010/11 campaign, with Gonzalo Higuain out injured and Karim Benzema underwhelming. And it was a decent stay for Adebayor, scoring eight times in 22 games, including a La Liga hat-trick and a goal in Los Blancos’ run to Copa del Rey glory.



Eto’o played under Mourinho in the 2009/10 and 2013/14 seasons for Inter Milan and Chelsea respectively. At the former, the forward was half of a potent strike partnership which helped the Nerazzurri win a treble that season, the crowning glory of which was Uefa Champions League conquest. Eto’o would play for Mourinho again, though, during a solitary spell when the latter returned to Stamford Bridge.



The Ghanaian’s relationship with the man he affectionately calls “Daddy” is well-documented. Having been signed by the tactician for Chelsea in 2005, Essien spent most of his better years under Jose, curiously struggling with injuries after the mastermind left in 2007. There was a short-lived reunion at Real Madrid years later when Mourinho brought him in to fill in across defence and midfield over the 2012/13 season, before ‘father and son’ worked together again at Chelsea a year later.


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