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Invincibles stars in all 22 Africans to play for Arsenal as 15-cap ace is eyed

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Arsenal are interested in a potential summer transfer for KAA Gent defender Joseph Okumu, which could make the Kenya international the 23rd African to represent the Gunners to date.

A total of 22 players from the African continent have ever played in at least one competitive match for the north London side. Some would fail to turn out in red-and-white beyond their debuts, while others have secured their names in Highbury and Emirates Stadium folklore.

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Okumu would arrive at Arsenal with expectations of immediately cementing his presence in Mikel Arteta’s first-team fold. The 25-year-old has made 47 appearances for Gent across all competitions, since joining the Jupiler Pro League outfit from Swedish side Elfsborg in 2021.

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Arsenal are interested in Gent raid for Kenya defender Joseph Okumu

Okumu has seldom settled at one club for long in his career so far, with spells at Kenyan side Chemelil Sugar, in South African at FS Stars and over in America for AFC Ann Arbor and Real Monarchs before moving to Sweden. His longest stint was two-and-a-half years at Chemelil Sugar.

Now, the 15-cap international could be heading to England, Scotland or Germany with clubs in all three countries keen. That’s according to one of Okumu’s agents, who has told Kenyan publication People Daily that Arsenal, Celtic and above all Borussia Dortmund are interested.

“We have had informal interests from English side Arsenal and Scottish giants Celtic,” claims Okumu’s agent. “But German side Borussia Dortmund is the first side to make an official inquiry about the central defender, who is open to a move if a proper agreement is reached.”

Okumu has delivered a string of impressive performances since joining Gent, for whom he has featured 47 times so far. The 6 ft 4 enforcer has additionally offered three goals across all competitions. Gent also won the Beker van Belgie this term with Okumu a key presence.

So, with Arsenal now interested in signing Okumu from Gent, what other African stars have played for the Gunners? Below is a selection of those to make the most appearances so far…

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Kolo Toure can serve as Joseph Okumu’s inspiration amid Arsenal interest

Kolo Toure can serve as Okumu’s inspiration in north London amid Arsenal’s interest in the Gent star. No African has made more appearances for the Gunners across all competitions than the Ivorian centre-half, who featured 327 times during his seven years with the club.

Arsenal signed Toure from Ivory Coast outfit ASEC Mimosas in 2002 for his first adventure in Europe. He would go on to help Arsene Wenger win the Premier League in 2003/04 as a key part of the Invincibles side. The 118-cap enforcer started 36 of his 37 appearances that season.

Toure would remain with Arsenal until joining Manchester City in July 2009 for £14m. At the Etihad Stadium, he would add another Premier League title in 2011/12 and an FA Cup medal in 2011 to add to his previous two success in the cup with the Gunners in 2003 and 2005.

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Lauren lifted three FA Cups and two Premier League titles with Arsenal

Arsenal raided the Spanish scene in 2000 to strengthen Wenger’s defence in a deal with RCD Mallorca for right-back Lauren. The Cameroonian would ply his trade in north London until a move to Portsmouth in 2007, following 240 appearances and helping to win five major titles.

The Gunners tasted FA Cup glory in 2002, 2003 and 2005 with the 76-cap international. The club also lifted the Premier League in 2001/02 and 2003/04 with Lauren in the side, playing 27 times for his first top-flight title in England and 32 times during the Invincibles campaign.

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Emmanuel Eboue helped win 2005 FA Cup before Turkish success

Emmanuel Eboue joined Arsenal in January 2005 for his first taste of English football after a two-year spell with KSK Beveren in Belgium. The right-back would remain in north London to August 2011 and joining Turkish giants Galatasaray, with whom he enjoyed lavish success.

The 78-cap Ivory Coast international helped Galatasaray win two Super Lig titles, two Super Cups and a Turkish Cup. Eboue also helped Arsenal win the FA Cup in his debut season with appearances in three ties. But the defender missed the final over rivals Manchester United.

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Arsenal gave Alex Song chance in England before sealing Barcelona transfer

Arsenal gave Alex Song a chance to hone his trade in England by raiding French outfit Bastia for the midfielder in 2005. The 49-cap Cameroon international remained in north London to 2012, when Barcelona swooped on the Emirates and agreed a £15m fee for a 24-year-old.

Song enjoyed 205 appearances with the Gunners, but never lifted a title during his time with the club. He would touch silverware twice in Catalunya with the 2012/13 La Liga crown and Copa del Rey in 2013/14. But Song only played 65 games, and admitted he moved for the money.

“When Barcelona offered me a contract and I saw how much I would earn, I didn’t think twice,” he said, via the Mirror. “I felt my wife and children should have comfortable lives once my career is over. I met Barca’s sporting director and he told me I would not get to play many games. But I didn’t [care], I knew that now I would become a millionaire.”

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Nwankwo Kanu made Arsenal switch after UEFA Cup win with Inter Milan

Nwankwo Kanu already knew what winning felt like when the Nigerian joined Arsenal from Inter Milan in 1999. The forward had won the UEFA Cup with the Nerazzurri the year before and had lifted the Champions League in 1994/95 plus three Dutch top-flight titles with Ajax.

He also won gold at the 1996 Olympics in America, and would go on to add FA Cup winners’ medals with the Gunners in 2002, 2003 and with Portsmouth in 2008. Kanu’s Arsenal career also featured Premier League titles in 2001/02 and 2003/04, but he was only a squad player.

In total, Kanu played just 10 times for one goal and three assists during the Invincibles term. He also only started three games, before joining West Brom at the end of the campaign. The 87-cap international left north London following 193 games in all competitions for 43 goals.

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So, there have been many successful Africans to wear the Arsenal jersey over the years who could now inspire Okumu amid Arteta’s interest in the Gent defender. So, with that in mind, here is a list of all of the Africans who have made at least one appearance for the Gunners…

Kolo Toure (Ivory Coast) 327 apps – retired in 2017

Lauren (Cameroon) 240 apps – retired in 2010

Emmanuel Eboue (Ivory Coast) 214 apps – retired in 2016

Alex Song (Cameroon) 205 apps – now at AS Arta/Solar7

Nwankwo Kanu (Nigeria) 193 apps – retired in 2012

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon) 163 apps – now at Barcelona

Alex Iwobi (Nigeria) 149 apps – now at Everton

Mohamed Elneny (Egypt) 147 apps

Emmanuel Adebayor (Togo) 142 apps – now at AC Semassi FC

Nicolas Pepe (Ivory Coast) 112 apps

Marouane Chamakh (Morocco) 67 apps – retired in 2019

Gervinho (Ivory Coast) 63 apps – now at Trabzonspor

Thomas Partey (Ghana) 59 apps

Christopher Wreh (Liberia) 44 apps – retired in 2007

Armand Traore (Senegal) 32 apps – now without a club

Quincy Owusu-Abeyie (Ghana) 23 apps – now at SV Robinhood

Emmanuel Frimpong (Ghana) 16 apps – retired in 2019

Kaba Diawara (Guinea) 14 apps – retired in 2011

Gilles Sunu (Togo) 2 apps – now at LB Chateauroux

Ismael Bennacer (Algeria) 1 app – now at AC Milan

Jehad Muntasser (Libya) 1 app – retired in 2011

Carlin Itonga (DR Congo) 1 app – retired in 2004

*Names in italics indicate those currently playing for Arsenal

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