Superstitious Premier League stars are handing over fortunes to witch-doctors in a bid to turn themselves into world beaters, a Sun investigation has found.
Top players are making 9,000-mile round trips to West Africa to visit Juju men with supposed supernatural powers.
They are taught bizarre rituals said to boost their skills or break the curse of an injury.
Several top stars have been publicly linked to black magic. Tottenham’s Togo striker Emmanuel Adebayor, 31, accused his family of using Juju on him during a feud. And Chelsea legend Didier Drogba told of his Ivory Coast team-mate Jean-Jaques Tizie chasing bad spirits away in a cemetery ritual in a book about African football.
But some footballers are in thrall to the tribesmen and are being rinsed of their earnings by fakers driving round in flash cars.
West Bromwich Albion’s former £10million record signing Brown Ideye warned last night: “I know players who get involved with the Juju men and they can’t get out. It’s a trap. They might get short-term benefits, but in the long run they pay for it. Juju men have a lot of influence.”
The wife of one Premier League ace told The Sun that her husband transfers £1,000 a month to a witch-doctor in Ivory Coast.
She said: “To some of the African players, the Juju man is more important than the manager of the club. If the Juju man told my husband to stop playing football, he would never kick a ball again.”
A Juju man known as Marabout Degla in a remote town in Benin, who was spoken to claims to have worked with some of the world’s top players and be able to make them the “top scorer or best player in the team or the world”.
He revealed that there is a particular ritual called the Troupkéka Milika costs around £460, but can be done remotely from his home in the “sacred forest” near the city of Parakou.
Marabout Degla said: “During its nine days you cannot sleep with a woman and you should cover yourself with a white loincloth while you sleep at night.”
He also offers “a magic ring that allows you to dominate playing partners and opponents during every competition you take part in”.
The herbalist said included in the ritual’s cost is protection against witchcraft and black magic.
But he added: “After becoming famous you must remember orphans, the disabled and work for the promotion of football in your country for it to work.”
Also in a one-on-one chat with the wife of a Premier League player about husband’s relationship with Juju man. She said: “My husband has gone back to his village several times to be cleansed.
“The Juju man might ask him to bring a sacrifice — a spotless white goat, lamb or chicken — which would be slaughtered and then various oaths are made.
“There are many fake witch doctors driving around in Rang Rovers and living in mansions. But the genuine Juju man lives in a hut with no water or electricity.
“I don’t think the English players know too much about all this, but some managers are definitely aware because the players excuse themselves at the drop of a hat when the Juju man comes calling.”
Nigerian Ideye, who now plays for Greek side Olympiacos, also warned about fakers. “These are men who are just trying to make themselves rich and tell you they can make your life perfect.
“If things like that worked then instead of Messi and Ronaldo winning world player of the year it should be some African players.
“I would advise players not to follow this route but it’s their choice, I can’t stop them.”
The Sun can also reveal how a witch doctor threatened to curse an English team on the eve of a crucial European match if they did not pay him £50,000.
He had turned up at the team’s hotel, but the captain dismissed the claim despite the pleas from an African team-mate.
The team lost the game with both players making notable errors. A source said: “It was creepy stuff.”
WITCHCRAFT is an epidemic blighting huge swathes of West, South and Central Africa.
More than half of the people south of the Sahara are believers and in many areas the cult’s grip is strengthening.
Cameroon, the Ivory Coast, Senegal, Ghana, Kenya, Sierra Leone and Zambia are among countries particularly affected.
Every year, tens of thousands are branded as witches.
Around 1,000 in the Gambia were accused of witchcraft in 2009 and made to drink potions by government-backed witch-doctors to “cure” them.
In Tanzania, where around 500 “witches” a year are killed, 23 people were charged last year with murder after burning, alive seven villagers suspected of witchcraft.
However, several countries have outlawed the cult.