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Team-History Tuesday: Tony Yeboah

YeboahFor the next few weeks, I'm going to take a look at some of the best players ever to don the legendary white jersey. Don't expect an objective best-ever list - my selection will be determined by YouTube-availability and the fact that I don't really want to write about players I don't like - but it should still be fun.

So on to my all-time favourite Leeds player: Tony Yeboah. Ghanian Premier League top scorer two seasons in a row? Check. German Bundesliga top scorer two years in a row? Check. The only player to ever win the BBC's Goal of the Month award twice in two consecutive months? Check. This is the man who gave me some of the best footballing memories of my life - I still remember being in the stands at Elland Road with my Dad, repeatedly chanting "To-o-ny Yeboah" until I lost my voice. He may have only played regularly for Leeds for one season, but good God, what a season.

Yeboah was born in Ghana and encouraged to play football by his Dad, a former professional player in that country. His performances in Ghana earned him a ticket to Germany in 1988, where he became only the second black person to play professional football there. He joined Frankfurt in 1990 and quickly became their best striker, ranking as the top scorer in German football in both 1993 and 1994 and striking fear into the hearts of every defence he encountered. Luckily for Leeds, Frankfurt's newly-appointed manager foolishly fell out with Yeboah and two other high-profile players in 1995, and soon forced them out of the squad. Leeds manager Howard Wilkinson swooped in with a then-club-record offer of £3.4 million (roughly $7 million), having been impressed with the striker's form after seeing him on a TV highlights show. Yeboah is still a legend and fan favourite at Frankfurt, with fans (according to Wikipedia) regularly wearing t-shirts emblazoned with "Zeugen Yeboahs" - meaning, "Yeboah's Witnesses." And with good reason: 6 months after Yeboah's departure, the formerly Champions League-challenging Frankfurt were relegated. Despite efforts to bring Yeboah back to Frankfurt, the club couldn't afford the star's new transfer fee.

Yeboah played well in the last few months of the 1994-1995 Premiership season, but it was in the 1995-1996 season that he cemented his cult status amongst Leeds fans, winning the BBC's Goal of the Month competition in both August and September of 1995, and later winning Goal of the Season for the second of them, his incredible strike against Wimbledon.

The August 1995 goal of the month, against Liverpool:

And the September Premiership Goal of the Month and 1995-1996 Premiership Goal of the Season, against Wimbledon:

Yeboah spent the rest of the season as Leeds's talisman, leading the squad and earning the love of the fans, who voted him as the first-ever non-British Leeds Fans' Player of the Year. It's just a shame that the rest of the squad wasn't quite good enough for Leeds to make the best of his talents.

Which brings us to Yeboah's swansong - Monaco. Ah, Monaco. With an in-form Monaco considered one of the tougher teams in the 1995 UEFA Cup, Leeds travelled to Monaco nervously anticipating a difficult game. What they probably didn't expect was one of the greatest hat tricks in UEFA Cup history, as Yeboah ripped the Monaco defence to shreds and gifted Leeds a 3-0 away win. The hat trick:

Sadly, that season was to be Yeboah's last real chance at Leeds. A series of devastating injuries suffered while representing Ghana internationally kept Yeboah off the pitch for much of the next season, and after a series of disagreements with new Leeds manager George Graham, the best Leeds striker of the Premiership era left for Hamburg, back in the Bundesliga, on a £1million transfer. He played well there for a few seasons, before his play was seriously affected by allegations of tax evasion, resolving which drained him. In 2001, he left Hamburg for the football leagues of Qatar, where he spent a few (presumably relaxing) years.

Today, Yeboah lives in Ghana, where he runs a hotel called "Yegoala" in the capital city of Accra. When asked by The Times why he is no longer heavily involved in football, he said "I was thinking about the future of the Ghanaian people — people who have no work, people who supported me throughout my football career. So I wanted to do something to employ the people and in Accra I now have some 50 employees." Since 2006, he has helped organise, and played in, an annual charity football match, the "Anthony Baffoe XI vs Anthony Yeboah XI," and tutors a number of young Ghanian strikers.

Yeboah_ModelYeboah at a Glance:

Name: Anthony "Tony" Yeboah
Birthday: June 6th, 1966
Birthplace: Kumasi, Ghana
Nationality: Ghanian
Height: 5'10"
Position: Striker
Time at Leeds: 18 months (Jan 1995 to July 1997)
Appearances: 62 (45 league appearances)
Goals: 33 (25 league goals)
Why's he great, in a nutshell? Did you watch the Wimbledon and Liverpool videos? Beyond his skill as a footballer, though, he seems like a genuinely good man who is trying to help young people in his own country. I really hope one day I can stay in his hotel and thank him for the memories he gave to me and so many people in Leeds.