The 2004 Champions League winner who almost joined Chelsea - Benni McCarthy

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Many of Africa’s finest footballers have put on the blue shirt of Chelsea Football Club – George Weah, Didier Drogba, Michael Essien, John Obi Mikel, Samuel Eto'o and almost Benni McCarthy.

After winning the Champions League with Jose Mourinho’s FC Porto in 2004, the former South African striker came very close to following his old boss and team-mates Paulo Ferreira and Ricardo Carvalho to Stamford Bridge.

Mourinho pushed hard for the signing of McCarthy and a deal was on the verge of happening, with the ex-Porto hero confirming to Absolute Chelsea that he even completed a medical.

"When Mourinho went to Chelsea, he wanted to take five players – Carvalho, Ferreira, Deco, Maniche and myself. I was very close to joining Chelsea. I even had a medical, but things became bitter with Mourinho and Porto, and they refused to do business."

Chelsea's Ivorian forward Didier Drogba celebrates after scoring a goal during the UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg football match between Chelsea and Barcelona at Stamford Bridge in London on April 18, 2012.  AFP PHOTO / GLYN KIRK (Photo credit should read GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images)

As McCarthy’s transfer to Chelsea fell through, Mourinho had to look elsewhere, and that meant a £24 million move for Marseille’s Didier Drogba who would go on to become one of the greatest strikers in Premier League history.

McCarthy, meanwhile, did eventually move to England in 2006, leaving the Portuguese giants for Blackburn Rovers and became an instant hit in the Premier League.

His first season in the English top-flight saw him finish as the second highest scorer with 18 goals – outscoring Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney – and just two behind the top scorer of that season – our very own Drogba.

The highlight of McCarthy’s season was the only goal in a 1-0 win against Liverpool at Ewood Park.

A move to West Ham United in 2010 didn’t work out, and he ultimately ended his playing career in his homeland as a domestic top-flight treble winner with Orlando Pirates.

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McCarthy can look back on his career with plenty of pride and plenty of what-ifs. At his peak, he was one of Africa’s most feared forwards, playing a starring role in Porto’s run to Champions League glory, scoring twice against Manchester United during qualifying.

Although he never won the African championship with South Africa, McCarthy was named as the outstanding individual in the 1998 edition – claiming both the Golden Boot and the Golden Ball.

He remains the only South African player to have ever won the Champions League and is his countries all-time top scorer with 31 goals.


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