2021 Africa Cup of Nations Top Players

Sun 26 December 2021 | 19:00

The 2021 Africa Cup of Nations will be held from 9 January to 6 February of 2022 in Cameroon, after being postponed twice. The tournament had been scheduled to be held in June and July of 2021. Read on to find out more about the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations top players.

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) announced on 15th of January, 2020, that because of adverse climatic conditions during the time at

2021 Africa Cup of Nations location

, the competition would take place from 9 January to 6 February 2022.

Then again, on 30th of June, 2020, the CAF postponed the tournament for the second time and announced that the 

African Cup of Nations fixtures 2021

will be played during the January of 2021 due to the effects of the COVID - 19 pandemic all over the continent. But they retained the name 2021 Africa Cup of Nations due to sponsorship purposes.

Moreover, the Africa Cup of Nations – also known as AFCON- is a biennial competition that is held every other year, which is different from other major international football competitions around the world such as the FIFA World Cup, the FIFA Confederations Cup, and also the Cup of nations in other continents which are all held every four year.

2021 Africa Cup of Nations will be the 33rd edition of the “AFCON” after the inaugural tournament was played in 1957 for the first time and since 1968, it has been held every two years, switching to odd-numbered years in 2013, so that is does not clash with the FIFA World Cup.

Although the inaugural tournament was only contested between 3 nations –




, and Ethiopia – the Africa Cup of Nations has expanded significantly since then: the number of participants was increased to 16 in 1998 - however, 16 teams were to compete in 1996, but Nigeria withdrew, reducing the field to 15.

It stayed unchanged until 2017 when it expanded even more and the number of participant nations reached 24. Unlike its primary versions, now it is essential for a qualifying tournament to be hold before the actual competition.

Among African Cup of Nations winners, Egypt is the most decorated nation by winning the title on 7 occasions, including 3 successive titles in 2006, 2008, and 2010. This feat has been unprecedented throughout the history of Africa Cup of Nations.

Cameroon stands 2nd in the ranking of African Cup of Nations winners by securing the trophy 5 times.


has been crowned the champion of Africa on 4 occasions, and Nigeria has achieved the title on 3 occasions. Ivory Coast, Algeria, and DR Congo have won 2 titles each.

Algeria is the current title holder of the AFCON after winning the title in 2019, after a 1–0 victory against Senegal in the final. The title was Algeria's second ever and first since 1990.

2021 Africa Cup of Nations Top Players:

With the progresses made in the continent, more African players have been introduced to the world during the last 2 decades. More African players have moved to Europe to play in the top – flight level of football in the world.

Even some of them have been regarded as the best players in the world during in some years. Players such as

Samuel Eto'o


Didier Drogba

were considered to be among the best players in the world during their time.

And African players have made even more progress in recent years. As a result, the technical level of Africa Cup of nations has developed greatly. Many of African national teams have several players who play in European top 5 leagues. And this has made the competition fiercer than ever.

In the following article, we are going to talk about the

2021 Africa Cup of Nations top players

that are expected to shine in the tournament.

The players who not only play in top European football clubs, but they are also among the best players of their league, and even Europe. Keep reading to find out more about the best players who are going to take part in 2021 Africa Cup of Nations.

Mohamed Salah, Egypt

  • Full name: Mohamed Salah Hamed Mahrous Ghaly

  • Date of birth: 15 June 1992 (age 29)

  • Place of birth: Nagrig, Basyoun, Egypt

  • Height: 1.75 m (5 ft 9 in)

  • Position(s): Forward

The 29 – year – old attacker is currently in his best form ever.

Mohamed Salah

was even said to be competent to win the 2021 Ballon d'Or at some points due to his outstanding performances especially in the beginning of 2021/22 season.

He is indubitably one of the best players in the world right now, and his name is the first to come to mind when we think of

2021 Africa Cup of Nations top players


The Egyptian superstar currently stands at the top of the Premier League top scorers in 2021/22 season with 15 goals. He is also the best assist provider of the competition with 9 assists up until the end of game week 18.

Salah has recorded these numbers – 15 goals and 9 assists – within only 18 league matches during the season. He has been directly involved in 24 league goals this season, more than any other player in top 5 European leagues.

Furthermore, not only has he been shining in the English Premier League, Salah's performance in the 2021/22 UEFA Champions League has also been luminous, where he has scored 7 goals within 6 group stage matches and helped Liverpool win all of their 6 matches in a group that was considered as the "Group of Death" in the tournament which included


, AC Milan, and Atletico Madrid.

Salah has won the Premier League's Golden Boot on 2 occasions to this day, and it is expected that he wins the award at the end of the current season as well. Moreover, he holds the record of scoring the most number of goals (32) in a single Premier League season (38 – game leagues).

He has also helped Liverpool to the conquest of the Premier League title and the UEFA Champions League in recent years.

In addition, Mohamed Salah has been named CAF African Footballer of the Year twice (2017 and 2018), as well as the BBC African Footballer of the Year (2017 and 2018). He was also voted in the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations Team of the Tournament and the CAF Team of the Year on 3 occasions (2017, 2018, and 2019).

However, despite his astonishing achievements on both individual and club levels, he is yet to win an international trophy with his national team. Salah, who captains Egyptian national team, has featured in a total of 75 games and has scored 45 goals for his country since he made his debut in 2011.

He reached the final match of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations with Egypt but failed to achieve their 8th – ever African Cup after a 2 – 1 loss in the final match. Now, by having one of the best players in the world in their squad, Egyptian people have gotten their hopes up about winning the Africa Cup of Nations after 11 years.

Riyad Mahrez, Algeria

  • Full name: Riyad Karim Mahrez

  • Date of birth: 21 February 1991 (age 30)

  • Place of birth: Sarcelles, France

  • Height: 1.79 m (5 ft 10 in)

  • Position(s): Winger

Manchester City star

Riyad Mahrez

will be one of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations top players. He helped his country to win the most recent Africa Cup of Nations in 2019, so they will participate in the competition as the defending champions.

They defeated Senegal 1 – 0 in the final match. It was Algeria's second title, and first after 1990, which improved their place among the 

African Cup of Nations winners


Mahrez played a pivotal for his national team on the way of winning that title by scoring 3 goals within 7 matches, including the decisive match – winning goal in the 90 + 5th minute of their semifinal match against Nigeria which brought the 2 – 1 victory for



Moreover, Mahrez has proved himself to be a vital player in Manchester City's line – up, especially during the last 2 seasons.

He played in 27 Premier League games for the Citizens last season within which he managed to score 9 goals and provide 6 assists. In addition, by scoring 4 goals and providing 2 assists, he helped his club to reach the final match of 2020/21 UEFA Champions League final match. However, they were defeated by Chelsea 1 – 0 and failed to get their hands on their first ever European title.

Furthermore, he is even more pivotal for Manchester City and

Pep Guardiola

this season – in the middle of which the

2021 Africa Cup of Nations

will be held – and that is great news for Algeria fans.

Mahrez has featured in 14 Premier League games so far in 2021/22, has scored 4 goals and assisted 3. Moreover, he has netted 5 goals within Man City's 6 group stage matches in 2021/22 UEFA Champions League.

Mahrez was named PFA Players' Player of the Year at the end of 2015/16 Premier League, and was a member of the Premier League PFA Team of the Year as he helped Leicester City win the Premier League. Moreover, he was also named CAF's African Footballer of the Year in 2016, as well as winning the BBC African Footballer of the year Award the same year.

In addition, Mahrez has been voted in CAF Team of the Year on 3 occasions (2016, 2018, and 2019). More notably, IFFHS selected him to be in CAF Men's Team of the Decade, and as also named as IFFHS CAF World's Best Playmaker in 2021.

We must wait and see if Mahrez and Algeria are able to repeat their feat in Egypt- 2019 Africa Cup of Nations location- and secure the Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon this year for the second time in a row.

Sadio Mane, Senegal

  • Full name: Sadio Mané

  • Date of birth: 10 April 1992 (age 29)

  • Place of birth: Bambali, Sédhiou, Senegal

  • Height: 1.75 m (5 ft 9 in)

  • Position(s): Forward / Winger

Another Premier League superstar: Liverpool's winger is not only one of the best African players, he has also been regarded as one of the best players in the world in his position.

Sadio Mane

and Senegal were only 1 inch away from winning the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, but they faced the defeat against Algeria in the final match.

Now, they are back to claim the title this year. Mane as one of the best players of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations tournament here he scored goals and provided 1 assists within 6 games for his country, and took them to the final match.

With a very quick inspection, it can be undoubtedly stated that


has the most powerful squad among 2021 Africa Cup of Nations teams. And Sadio Mane is their most remarkable player.

He played in 35 Premier League games throughout 2020/21 season and managed to score 11 goals as well as providing 7 assists. Although he was not as luminous as the previous seasons, Mane was still one of the best players of the Premier League.

He has been in good form from the beginning of 2021/22 season and has scored 7 goals for Liverpool in the Premier League in addition to 2 more in the UEFA Champions League.

Furthermore, Mane has been considered among the best players in the world during the last years: he was placed 4th in 2019 Ballon d'Or, 5th in 2019 Best FIFA Men's Player and 4th in 2020.

In addition, he won the 2018/19 Premier League's Golden Boot. Additionally, Sadio Mane was named the African Footballer of the Year in 2019, and has been voted in CAF Team of the Year on 4 occasions.

With him being in Senegal's line – up, they can dream to achieve the Africa Cup of Nations for the first time in the country's history. And it seems that Senegal has not ever have a team better than their current squad, so if it is ever going to happen, it must happen this year!

Edouard Mendy, Senegal

  • Full name: Édouard Osoque Mendy

  • Date of birth: 1 March 1992 (age 29)

  • Place of birth: Montivilliers, France

  • Height: 1.94 m (6 ft 4 in)

  • Position(s): Goalkeeper

As we mentioned, Senegal has arguably the most powerful squad of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations, and no squad is regarded as a good one unless a great goalkeeper is included. Chelsea's 29 – year – old keeper is definitely one of the

2021 Africa Cup of Nations top players


Although he joined Chelsea in the September of 2020, he immediately became the first choice goal keeper and managed to keep 16 clean sheets during 2020/21 Premier League.

In addition, he played a vital role in Chelsea's achieving the 2020/21 UEFA Champions League, where Mendy equaled the record for the most number of clean sheets in a single UEFA Champions League season by keeping 9 clean sheets throughout the tournament, including 1 in the final match against Manchester City which took Chelsea to the conquest of their 2nd ever UEFA Champions League title.


was named 2021 UEFA Goalkeeper of the Year, and was also nominated for 2021 Ballon d'OR best goal keeper of the year among the top 3.

In addition, Mendy managed to keep 5 successive clean sheets for


during 2020/21 season, which had not happened for over a decade before.

He started the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations as Senegal's first choice goalkeeper, but he was injured during the warm - ups before Senegal's final group stage match against Kenya, and was forced to withdraw from the squad with a broken finger as Senegal would go on to lose in the final 1–0 to Algeria.

He and his teammates in Senegal are ready to achieve the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations for their country as the nation's first major international achievement.

Achraf Hakimi, Morocco

  • Full name: Achraf Hakimi Mouh

  • Date of birth: 4 November 1998 (age 23)

  • Place of birth: Madrid, Spain

  • Height: 1.81 m (5 ft 11 in)

  • Position(s): Right-back

Arguably one of the greatest right – backs in the world,

Archraf Hakimi

is definitely one of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations top players. The 23 – year – old player helped inter in the Serie A in 2020/21 after 11 years, where by scoring 7 goals and providing 8 assists, he was one of the best players of the league in that season.

After leaving Real Madrid for a two-year loan in the summer of 2018, Hakimi shone at Borussia Dortmund, scoring six goals and providing six assists. Hakimi eventually joined Inter Milan and quickly proved himself as a key player for the Milan squad.

Achraf was signed by Paris Saint – Germain in the summer of 2021 with a transfer fee of €60.00m. He has played in 17 League 1. and 6 UEFA Champions League games for PSG this season and has managed to score 3 goals and provide 2 assist. Many eyes will be laid on Hakimi and Moroccan national team to see if they can achieve their 2nd –ever Africa Cup of Nations after winning it the first time in 1976.

Hakimi's progress has been making international headlines as he has established himself as one of the most noticeable players. He was ranked the best right-back in ESPN’s latest ranking of the world’s best footballers.

Hakimi was ranked first among ten international players for the right-back position. In 2021, the Moroccan international outperformed England international and Liverpool star

Trent Alexander-Arnold

, who had taken top spot in last year’s rankings.

The fact that Hakimi was not even ranked in ESPN's 2019 compilation shows his amazing growth. Over the past years, the Moroccan international has established himself as one of the most identifiable players in his position.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Gabon

  • Full name: Pierre-Emerick Emiliano François Aubameyang

  • Date of birth: 18 June 1989 (age 32)

  • Place of birth: Laval, France

  • Height: 1.87 m (6 ft 2 in)

  • Position(s): Striker

Despite the recent conflicts between


and Arsenal which resulted in him being banished from the Gunner's squad and also being stripped of Arsenal captaincy, his name is one of the most appealing names of the 2021 AFCON.

Being regarded as one of the best strikers in the world during the past couple of years, the 32 – year – old player won the Premier League's Golden Boot in 2018/19 with 22 goals.

He netted 10 and assisted 3 goals during the 2020/21 season. He had scored more than 20 league goals – in Germany and England - before that season in every season from 2015/16 to 2019/20.

Moreover, Aubameyang finished 2016/17 Bundesliga as the top scorer with 31 goals while playing for

Borussia Dortmund


Aubameyang has also scored 4 Premier League goals for Arsenal this season, and he the situation does not seem to be a solvable one, so his path alongside Arsenal has ended, and have to wait and see if he selects his future team before the inaugural game of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations.

Aubameyang is Gabon's all-time top goal scorer with 29 goals, and he also captains Gabon's national team. Furthermore, in 2015, he was named the African Footballer of the Year and became the first Gabonese and the second European – born player to have achieved the award.

Additionally, Aubameyang has been voted in CAF Team of the Year on 6 occasions, and was included in IFFHS CAF Men's Team of the Decade.

Sebastien Haller, Ivory Coast

  • Full name: Sébastien Romain Teddy Haller

  • Date of birth: 22 June 1994 (age 27)

  • Place of birth: Ris-Orangis, France

  • Height: 1.90 m (6 ft 3 in)

  • Position(s): Forward

Ajax's striker has caught so many eyes with his astonishing performances this season, especially in the UEFA Champions League where he is the leading goal scorer by end of group stages with 10 goals.

Having made his UCL debut only this season,


became the second player to score in all of 6 group stage matches within a single Champions League season after Cristiano Ronaldo did it in 2017/18, and he also became the fastest player to 10 goals in competition history by scoring those goals during his 6 first appearances.

Additionally, the 27 – year – old has scored 10 goals and provided 4 assists for


during 2021/22 Eredivisie.

Having been born in France, Haller has represented France in at every youth level. However, he plays for Ivory Coast on senior level and made his debut in the November of 2020.

With the great form Haller is in, Ivory Coast fans have great hopes that they will secure their 3rd Africa Cup of Nations after winning it in 1992 and 2015.

Haller is expected to be one of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations top players given his current form, and the nation also relies on him to take them forward in the competition.

Kalidou Koulibaly, Senegal

  • Full name: Kalidou Koulibaly

  • Date of birth: 20 June 1991 (age 30)

  • Place of birth: Saint-Dié-des-Vosges, France

  • Height: 1.87 m (6 ft 2 in)

  • Position(s): Centre-back

Regarded as one of the greatest center backs in the world, Senegal's captain, 

Kalidou Koulibaly

, will be a key player of their line – up as Senegal is considered as one of the most probable teams to win the cup.

The 30 – year – old defender has been one of the most vital players in Napoli's squad during the last years, and despite the fact that a number of prominent European clubs have been interested in signing him, Napoli authorities would not let him leave for a fee less than €100.00m, and this clearly indicates how important he is for his club, and even more for his country, where people expect the team to bring the title home to make up for their failure in the final match of 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.

Youssef En – Nesyri, Morocco

  • Full name: Youssef En-Nesyri

  • Date of birth: 1 June 1997 (age 24)

  • Place of birth: Fez, Morocco

  • Height: 1.89 m (6 ft 2 in)

  • Position(s): Striker

Sevilla's 24 – year – old striker will undoubtedly be one of Morocco's most vital players during the tournament, and he is also one of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations top players.

He scored 18 goals for Sevilla during 2020/21 La Liga and played an important role in Sevilla finishing the league in the 4th place and thus being qualified for this season's UEFA Champions League.

He stood 5th among 2020/21 La Liga top scorers.

En – Nesyri

had retained his good form during the current season and had scored 3 goals within 7 La Liga games for his team this season, but he was injured in the November.

Moreover, En – Nesyri showed good performances during 2020/21 UEFA Champions League as well by scoring 6 goals in 8 appearances for Sevilla. With all that in mind, Moroccan people can hope to have a dangerous striker in the line – up for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations.

In addition, in the following section, a list of other prominent players, who will take part in the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations, is provided.

These players are said to have the potential of making the difference in the tournament and are without a doubt among 2021 Africa Cup of Nations top players:

  • Frnack Kessie and Nicolas Pepe, Ivory Coast

  • Ismael Bennacer, Baghdad Bounedjah, and Said Benrahma, Algeria

  • Andre Onana, Eric Maxim Choupo - Moting and Karl Toko Ekambi, Cameroon

  • Idrissa Gana Gueye, Keita Balde, and Ismaila Sarr, Senegal

  • Thomas Partey, Andre Ayew, and Jordan Ayew, Ghana

  • Yassine Bounou, Romain Saiss, and Sofiane Boufal, Morocco

  • Wilfred Ndidi, Alex Iwobi, Samuel Chusueze, and Kelechi Iheanacho, Nigeria

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source: SportMob

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