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Greatest footballers in AFCON history

Mon 10 January 2022 | 20:29

As the Africa cup of Nations 2021, has kicked off on the 9th of January, 2022, memories of the previous editions of AFCON has come flooding back, urging us to ponder on the Greatest footballers in AFCON history.

Throughout history, many football sensations hailing from African nations have dazzled the world of football by making jaw-dropping feats either at football leagues or at the international level.

Even if Africa has not been the home to the world's most popular football leagues, a raft of superstars has been developed from this continent that went on to reach the pinnacle of a football career by winning even multiple honours in Europe too.

Africa Cup of Nations is among the first competition, in which the immense talents of the greatest African footballers have been unearthed and despite the Cronovirus Pandemic,

Africa Cup of Nations 2021

would not be an exception.

While each of the great stars as the likes of Mohammed Salah, Riyad Mahrez, Sadio Mane, Achraf Hakimi, just to name a few have already succeeded to be deemed as an African best player 2021, by leaving an indelible mark on the Africa Cup of Nations 2021, they might make their presence binding on the list of Greatest footballers in AFCON history.

While you can find a lot more about the aforementioned footballers on

2021 Africa Cup of Nations Best XI

, there is no dearth of legendary players in AFCON history, thereby in so far as to utterly fathom out what a great success they made, let's see who are already the Greatest footballers in AFCON history to whom the

African best player 2021

is conceivably set to join them.

Greatest footballers in AFCON history

Come along with us to read more about the greatest footballers in AFCON history.

Ahmed Hassan

There is no way that the Egyptian former professional attacking midfielder could be excluded from our list of greatest footballers in AFCON history, especially when he is the third most capped international male footballer in football history, being included on Sportmob's

The most capped footballers ever

.

That is to say with making 184 caps for his national side, Egypt, he is one of the best players in African football history.

Among the influential Egyptian players, nobody has left such a deep distinguishing mark on their national side especially for the Africa Cup of Nations quite like phenomenal Ahmed Hassan.

Just for evidence consider the significant role he played to help his national side to be the winner of Africa Cup of Nations editions of 1998 Burkina Faso, 2008 Ghana, 2006 Egypt, and 2010 Angola.

In the two latter ones, not only he was dubbed as Africa Cup of Nations Best Player, but also he was included on the Africa Cup of Nations Dream Team too.

But precisely speaking, he was just 22 years old that opened the scoring in 1998 final which was his fourth international goal for his side.

The prime heyday of his national career particularly in AFCON tournaments was when he captained the Pharaohs to the 2006 title, amazingly putting away four goals in their path to the second crown.

In his two last AFCON contributions, he also took the responsibility of captaining his side, leading them to lift the trophy two more times until he became retired and Egyptian Golden Generation reached a scintillating finish.

Rigobert Song

The current coach of the Cameroon U-23 national team, was a part of the Cameroon national team between 1993 and 2010, representing Indomitable Lions at eight Africa Cup of Nations editions.

Being widely regarded as one of the

greatest footballers in AFCON history

, he captioned his team in five editions of the tournament, being the record holder for the most subsequent games played in the

AFCON

with 35 first-team games.

While he represented his side in the World Cups of 1994, 1998, 2002 and 2010, he successes to be the winner of AFCON 2000 and 2002.

To be specific, he amazingly scored the decisive penalty to beat Nigeria in 2000, while he went on to become the Player of the Tournament two years later when Cameroon picked up the title without conceding a single goal.

He scored the decisive penalty to defeat Nigeria in 2000 and was named Player of the Tournament two years later as Cameroon clinched the title without conceding a single goal.

While he is also the record holder of the most capped player in the history of the Cameroon national team, he could grab his third AFCON title in 2008, had he never made the mistake of losing possession on the edge of the box to Mohamed Zidan that eventually ended up in their 1-0 defeat to Egypt.

Laurent Pokou

The Former ASEC Abidjan superstar, who represented the Ivory Coast national team, was one of the most outstanding players in the African game during the late 60s and early 70s, while he won the Afcon Player of Tournament award in 1970 and twice ended up being African Footballer of the Year award.

He even picked up the honour of becoming the highest goalscorer of the Africa Cup of Nations, putting away six goals in the 1968 Ethiopia tournament and eight in the 1970 Sudan, in which he only scored 5 goals in one single match against Ethiopia, leading his side to earn a 6–1 triumph.

While he earned the nickname L'homme d'Asmara (the man of Asmara), for this distinguishable mark, his tally has been surpassed only once by Zaire's Pierre Ndaye Mulamba, who scored nine in 1974, yet he is still considered to be among the AFCON top scorers.

Likewise, with his 14 total goals, he is regarded as the African Cup of Nations second-highest overall goalscorer, while his record remained unbeaten for 38 years until Cameroon's

Samuel Eto'o

matched his record and then outperformed his tally of 14 in the 2008 edition.

Abedi Pele

As one of the African best players of all time, the Ghanaian former professional attacking midfielder took the responsibility of captaining his national side from 1992 to 1998.

Being called the IFFH top three Africans of all time, he also won African Player of the Year three times in 1991, 1992 and 1993.

While he was never provided with the opportunity to put on show his mind-blowing performances in a

World Cup

with Ghana, he went down as IFFHS All-time Africa Men's Dream Team in 2021.

The Ghanaian legend succeeded to win the 1982 African Cup of Nations and a decade later in 1992, he went on to be heralded as the player of the tournament for his putting away 3 goals in this edition.

He achieved this triumph, even if the Black Stars ended up being runners-up in that tournament, conceding their final match which was a long penalty shoot-out (0-0 11-10) to Ivory Coast, while Pele had been suspended for the match.

Kwadwo Asamoah

The Ghanaian professional footballer who often features in the position of a left midfielder or left-back, and sometimes in central midfielder is considered to be among

African best players of all time

.

As an indispensable member of Ghana’s national team, he was honoured to star for the Black Stars in all of their games in the 2010 World Cup, leading his side to be the third-ever African team in history to reach the quarterfinal, while he also accompanied them at the 2014 FIFA World Cup too.

What has landed him a spot among the greatest footballers in AFCON history, is his influential presence in four African Cup of Nation tournaments in which he helped the Black Stars to reach three semi-finals and the final in 2010, conceding the final match 1–0 to

Egypt

, grabbing the silver medal in 2010 edition.

While he featured in 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2013 editions of AFCON, he was granted the tournament Most Promising African Player in 2010, and despite being a midfielder he could score three times in the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations, being called Ghana Player of the Year twice consecutively for 2012 and 2013 as well.

Jay-Jay Okocha 

With exceptional technical ability, he was the most gifted player of his generation, being considered as one of the African best players of all time.

While he was included on IFFHS All-time Africa Men's Dream Team as of 2021, along with his national side  Nigeria, he could win the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations in Tunisia.

Whereas he ended up being Runner-up in 2000 AFCON in Ghana–Nigeria, he went on to grab third place in each edition of AFCON in 2002 Mali, 2004 Tunisia and  2006 Egypt.

When he represented Super Eagles in the 2000 African Cup of Nations co-hosted with Ghana, he managed to put away three goals in the competition, as two of them were in the opening game against Tunisia, for which he was given a standing ovation by around 60,000 spectators attended when he was leaving the field.

Even in 2004 he amazingly went on to become Africa Cup of Nations Top Scorer as well as Africa Cup of Nations Best Player in the same year.

While he also represented his side in the 1994 and 1998 FIFA World Cup, he even succeeded to earn

Olympic

gold at the Atlanta Games.

Rashidi Yekini

The

Nigerian

all-time top goalscorer, accompanied his side in the 1994 World Cup, as he put away Nigeria's first-ever goal in a World Cup, in a 3–0 triumph over Bulgaria. The goal celebration he made after scoring this goal is still one of the most living memories in Nigerian football history.

While he represented the Super Eagles in one more World Cup, he was heralded as the African Footballer of the Year in 1993, representing his side in the 1988 Seoul Olympics as well.

What has landed him a spot among the

greatest footballers in AFCON history

is his incredible performance at the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations in Tunisia, where he topped the goal charts so as to be called the best player of the tournament.

That is to say, although Emmanuel Amuneke scored twice to beat Zambia in the 1994 AFCON final, it was Yekini who finished the campaign with the Golden Boot due to his two goals scored against Zaire in the quarterfinal as well as his equaliser against the Ivorians in the semi, leading his side to win 1994 Africa Cup of Nations.

But even more remarkable is the fact that he has been one of six players to have twice been the top scorer in the tournament since he also scored four goals in 1992 and twice went down in the Team of the Tournament as well.

Not to mention that his consistent presence in the AFCON along with his several appearances in the tournament, led him to be the third overall top goalscorer scoring 13 goals across all the tournaments.

George Weah

The current president of Liberia is the first African former professional footballer who has become a head of state, as he was one of the 1990s greatest footballers.

Being highly revered for his acceleration, pace, dribbling ability, as well as his goal-scoring talent, he is one of the African best players of all time, who represented Liberia at two editions of the African Cup of Nations in 1996 and 2002, racking up a total of 75 caps and 18 goals for his side.

Although he is often heralded as one of the best players never to have played at the World Cup, his influence on African football is undeniable.

That is to say, he was honoured to be called the FIFA World Player of the Year in 1995, while he was also crowned the prestigious

Ballon d'Or

award in that same year, going down in history as the first and only African player to grab such trophies.

His remarkable feats in the 1990s saw him earn the nickname of "King George", being called the African Footballer of the Year in 1989, 1994 and 1995, while he also went down as the greatest African player of the 20 the century too.

Roger Milla

The

Cameroonian

former legendary forward reached the pinnacle of his career in the 1980s when he accompanied The Indomitable Lions in winning the African Cup of Nations title in 1984 and 1988.

This is while he also picked up the honour to become the Africa Cup of Nations Best Player in 1986 as well as the African Cup of Nations Top Scorer in 1986 and 1988.

But he earned worldwide recognition in the 1990s, especially when he led Cameroon to become the first African team to reach the World Cup quarter-finals at the old age of 38, as he amazingly put away four goals and went on to make his trademark goal celebration by running to the corner flag and performing a dance.

While ever since then he became widely known as a pioneer of several unusual and imaginative goal celebrations, four years after that, when he was 42 years old, he could smash his own record for the oldest goalscorer in World Cup by putting away goals against Russia in the 1994 FIFA World Cup.

As he also became the African Footballer of the Year twice in his glorious career, he picked up the honour to become the best African player of the previous 50 years by the Confederation of African Football.

Essam El-Hadary

The Egyptian former goalkeeper has become the third most capped footballer for Egypt, with making 159 international appearances between 1996 and 2018, being often reversed as a true giant of the Nations Cup, while most probably his fellow countryman is the favourite to become African best player 2021.

Strictly speaking, while he was honoured to be a four-time Africa Cup of Nations winner, he was selected as the best goalkeeper in the 2006 African Cup of Nations, taken place in homeland Egypt, and two other editions of 2008 and 2010 respectively occurred in Ghana and Angola.

Then he even went on to feature in the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations, following that he was replaced with Ahmed El-Shenawy in his side first match of the tournament, so as to become the oldest player to ever star in an Africa Cup of Nations match.

Not to mention that he managed to save two penalties when Egypt beat Burkina Faso 4–3 in a penalty shoot-out to go through the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations Final.

Generally, as the main pillar of Egyptian national team, he succeeded to keep a clean sheet in three successive finals, to the point that

Didier Drogba

assumed him as his toughest ever opponent.

Likewise, when he was 45 years old, he participated in the 2018 World Cup and went on to become the oldest player who ever featured in a World Cup match.

Didier Drogba

Although Drogba’s triumphs at his club level overshadowed his international career, his influence for Ivory Coast was impressive too.

While he represented his country between 2002 and 2014, he took the responsibility of captaining his side from 2006 until the time of his retirement, scoring 65 goals in his 105 caps for

Ivory Coast

, so as to etch his name in history books as his country's all-time top goalscorer.

During this period, he succeeded to led his side to the 2006 FIFA World Cup, which was their first appearance in the tournament, as he also put away their first goal. He even went on to take the responsibility of captaining his side at the 2010 and 2014 FIFA World Cups too.

Besides, what has landed him a place among the

greatest footballers in AFCON history

, is his contribution in African Cup of Nations editions of 2006 and 2012, even if they were defeated on both occasions on penalties.

Be that as it may, at least, he was included in the Africa Cup of Nations Team of the Tournament in 2006, 2008, and 2012, while he also became African Footballer of the Year twice, in 2006 and 2009.

Samuel Eto'o

As he spent excessively glittering spans with clubs like Barcelona, Inter, Real Mallorca, Chelsea,

Everton

, Sampdoria and bagged more than 400 professional goals, it is of little surprise to see his club career being overlooked in comparison to his national performances.

Yet as one of the best strikers in the world, as well as one of the greatest African players of all time, he picked up the great honour of being the all-time leading scorer in the history of the Africa Cup of Nations, with 18 goals, while he is also Cameroon's all-time leading scorer and third most capped player, scoring 56 strikes in 118 appearances.

It is even more outstanding to suggest that he contributed in six editions of the Africa Cup of Nations, winning twice in 2000 and 2002, and once ended up to be runner up in 2008, while he also became African Cup of Nations top goalscorer in 2006 and 2008, cementing his place among the greatest footballers in AFCON history.

It goes without saying that he grabbed the African Player of the Year award not once but four times in 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2010, being also a member of the Cameroon squad who was the Gold Medal winner at the 2000 Olympics as he took part in four World Cup as well.

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source: SportMob

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