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Best Tunisian Footballers of All Time

Sun 20 February 2022 | 14:30

One of the participants in 2021 Africa Cup of Nations, Tunisia even managed to make it to the competition’s quarter-finals to just be stopped there by Burkina Faso. In this post, however, we are to see who the best Tunisian footballers of all time are.

Some of the footballers on the list of best Tunisian footballers of all time are actually among the former Tunisian football players in Europe, but only two of them, namely, Hatem Trabelsi and Wahbi Khazri, are among former Tunisian footballers in England.

Either being among former

Tunisian football players in Europe

or former Tunisian footballers in England, the footballers on the list of best Tunisian footballers of all time proved some kind of professionalism during their careers to deserve to be on the list. And if you like to know how many of them won the Tunisian Footballer of the Year award, we should  say only one of them, since the award has been given since 2012 and most of the footballers on the list of best Tunisian footballers of all time finished their careers before that date. 

A List of Best Tunisian Footballers of All Time

The list of best Tunisian footballers of all time starts with a goalkeeper, but let’s see which other footballers are on the list.

Sadok Sassi (Goalkeeper)

The only goalkeeper on the list of best Tunisian footballers of all time, Sadok Sassi is a 76-year-old retired Tunisian goalkeeper who served only one club, namely the Tunisian club,

Club Africain

, during his 17-year career which lasted from 1962 to 1979. In fact, he’s the only one-club man on the list and during his service to the only club he served during his career he made a total of 417 appearances for them only at league level. Sassi also served the Tunisian national team for 15 years between 1963 and 1978 making a total of 87 appearances for them in the process. He was actually Tunisia’s first-team goalkeeper for several years and they say he actually made 116 appearances for his country’s national team, but FIFA accepted only 87 of them as official.

So, if we consider 116 as the number of all Sassi’s international appearances, then he will be the most capped Tunisian footballer of all time, otherwise - we mean if we take 87 as the number of his international appearances, he finishes 8th on the list of most capped Tunisian footballers of all time. Anyhow, Sassi won five Tunisian League titles and eight cups during his career with his club, Club Africain, and the Tunisian national team. He took part in three editions of Africa Cup of Nations, namely the 1963, 1965, and 1978 editions, finishing as runner-up in the 1965 edition with them.

Wahbi Khazri (Forward)

The only footballer on the list of

best Tunisian footballers of all time

who has won a Tunisian Footballer of the Year award - actually in 2018, Wahbi Khazri is a 31-year-old forward and attacking midfielder who is also the only one on the list who is still in the business. He’s been serving the Ligue 1 club, Saint-Étienne, since 2018 and he also served the English club Sunderland between 2016 and 2018 while they were still competing in the Premier League - by that account, he’s not only among Tunisian football players in Europe but also among the former Tunisian footballers in England.

A France-born Tunisian footballer, Wahbi Khazri should not be expected to have played for African or Tunisian clubs, as it is really so. He has served only five clubs to this date four of which are French and one of them, as mentioned above, English. His style of play, then, resembles that of European footballers than African ones, and although he has not proved to be a prolific goalscorer to this date, he has managed to score at least one goal in every 4 appearances that he has made at club level.

Khazri is both a citizen of France and Tunisia, but he has chosen to serve the Tunisian national team and from 2013 on during which he has scored 24 goals in 69 appearances for them - 1.02 goals in every three appearances, of course, to this date. Khazri has taken part in four editions of Africa Cup of Nations, namely the 2015, 2017, 2019, and 2021 editions, with his country’s national team to only finish on the fourth place in the 2019 edition. He was also part of the Tunisian national team in 2014 and 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification rounds where in the latter competition Tunisia were qualified for the finals but were later knocked out in the competition’s group stage.

Khaled Badra (Defender)

The first defender on the list of best Tunisian footballers of all time, Khaled Badra is a 48-year-old retired Tunisian footballer who majorly served Tunisian clubs during his career, although he also had a one-season spell with the Italian club, Genoa, while they competed in Serie B and the Turkish club,

Denizlispor

. You shouldn’t expect him to have scored many goals as it is really so at club level - he scored 12 goals in 184 club appearances, however, at international level he has a better goalscoring record as he scored 10 goals in 96 appearances for the Tunisian national team between 1995 and 2006. He took part in two editions of FIFA World Cup, namely the 1998 and 2002 editions, with the Tunisian national team where in both competitions the team was knocked out in the group stage.

And in the 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002, and 2004 editions of Africa Cup of Nations, Badra was part of the Tunisian national team actually winning the 2004 edition and finishing as runner-up in the 1996 edition with them. Badra is a moderately-decorated footballer on the list with 15 club trophies to his name most of which including six Tunisian League titles with the Tunisian club, Esperance de Tunis, whom he served more than any other club during his career; actually for 8 years and in two time periods. They say other than having defensive qualities, Badra was also a good set-piece taker, and maybe that was why he was called up to the Tunisian national team just one year after the start of his senior club career in 1994 and served them up until the end of his career in 2006.

Temime Lahzami (Winger)

One of the top Tunisian footballers in 1970s and 80s, Temime Lahzami is a 73-year-old retired footballer who played as a winger and for four clubs during his career with the most prominent of which being the Ligue 1 club, Marseille. They say Lahzami is actually the first Tunisian footballer ever to have served Marseille. During his service to the French club which actually lasted from 1979 to 1981, Lahzami managed to score 6 goals in 35 appearances which translates to one goal in every six appearances, however, in general - we mean throughout his career, he was a better scorer considering that he scored 120 goals in 392 appearances only at league level - almost one goal in every three appearances.

Lahzami also served the

Tunisian national team

between 1977 and 1981, but again with them he scored around one goal in every six appearances averagely which comes from the 12 goals he scored in his 69 international appearances. Lahzami took part in only one edition of Africa Cup of Nations, namely the 1978 edition, with the Tunisian national team where they finished on the third place. He also captained Tunisia in 1978 FIFA World Cup helping them to become the first African team ever in the history of World Cup to win a match in the competition’s finals stage; actually against Mexico and with the final result of 3-1 in favor of Tunisia.

Francileudo Santos (Forward)

A naturalized Tunisian citizen born in Brazil, Francileudo Silva dos Santos, simply known as Francileudo Santos in the world of football, is actually known to be a former Tunisian footballer than a Brazilian one. He actually served no Brazilian club during his career - only Tunisian and European clubs - and in this respect, he should be, of course, considered as a Tunisian footballer. He also didn’t serve the Brazilian but the Tunisian national team and sometime between 2004 and 2008 during which he managed to score 22 goals in his 41 appearances for them - around one goal in every two appearances. The European clubs he served during his career were the Belgian club, Standard Liege, the French clubs,

Sochaux

, Toulouse, Istres, ASM Belfort, and the Swiss clubs, Zurich and FC Porrentruy - by that account, you can also call him one of the former Tunisian football players in Europe, too.

Santos had his best days with the French club, Sochaux, and among the five seasons he served them the 2000-01 season was the most successful one both for him and his club: He not only became the Ligue 2 top scorer with 21 goals and also the French league Player of the Year in the same season but also helped his club promote from

Ligue 2

to Ligue 1, indeed, through the goals he scored for them. Santos became another competition’s top scorer during his footballing time, too, which actually happened in 2004 Africa Cup of Nations where not only his team, Tunisia, won the competition but also he became the top scorer of the competition with 4 goals, of course, alongside four other African footballers including Jay-Jay Okocha of Nigeria.

The 42-year-old retired Tunisian footballer also took part in 2006 and 2008 editions of Africa Cup of Nations with Tunisia where in the former edition that they reached the competition’s quarter-finals he scored a hat-trick in a 4-1 win over Zambia and another goal against South Africa becoming the second top scorer of the competition with 4 goals behind Samuel Eto'o with 5 goals.

Issam Jemaa (Forward)

Another forward on the list of

best Tunisian footballers of all time

, Issam Jemaa is a 38-year-old retired  footballer who played around half of his career for French clubs like Lens and Auxerre and majorly in Ligue 1 with him having served the former club (Lens) more than any other club during his career; actually for six years between during 2005 and 2011 in which he made a total of 142 appearances and scored 31 goals for them - 1.05 goals in every five appearances. Although Jemaa was not a prolific goalscorer with the French clubs he served during his career, he was indeed with the Arab clubs he served considering that he scored 52 goals in 61 appearances for the Kuwaiti club, Kuwait SC, and 24 goals in 24 appearances for the UAE club, Dubai CSC.

And with the Tunisian national team, well, Jemaa was kind of a prolific goalscorer with the 36 goals he scored for them in 84 appearances between 2005 and 2014 - 2.1 goals in every 5 appearances, but prolific or not, with that number of goals, Jemaa is actually Tunisia’s top scorer of all time and with a good margin with the Nation’s other top scorers: At least 12 goals with Tunisia’s second top scorer of all time, Wahbi Khazri, who actually scored 24 goals during his career. Jemaa actually took part in four editions of Africa Cup of Nations, namely the 2006, 2008, 2010, and 2012 editions, with the Tunisian national team but never won a trophy or even finished on the fourth place with them. He was part of the Tunisian national team in 2006, 2010, and 2012 FIFA World Cup qualifier rounds but either they didn’t advance to the finals or he was not part of the team in the finals stage - they actually qualified for the finals in 2006 edition.

Mokhtar Ben Nacef (Defender)

The first passed and the only footballer who managed his country’s national team after his career as a player, Mokhtar Ben Nacef was an old-timer Tunisian footballer whose career lasted from 1945 to 1961. He either served Tunisian or French clubs during his career and is often remembered for the winning goal he scored for his side, Nice, with a scissor kick in the 1954 French Cup final against Marseille which actually had his side win the cup with a 2-1 victory. Nacef also served the Tunisian national team between 1956 and 1959, but of how many appearances or goals he scored for them or even for the clubs he served during his career there is no information at hand. It might be interesting for you to know that Nacef captained the first Tunisian national team formed after the independence of Tunisia from France in 1956. He finally died in August 2006 at the age of 78.

Hatem Trabelsi (Defender)

A 45-year-old retired Tunisian footballer who is also among the former

Tunisian footballers in England

, Hatem Trabelsi is actually the only footballer on the list to have served the top Premier League club, Manchester City, sometime during his career; actually in 2006-07 season where he made 20 appearances for them only at league level. He scored only one goal for Man City but against the great Dutch goalkeeper,

Edwin van der Sar

, in a match against Manchester United that was finally lost to them 3-1. And the other top European club Trabelsi played for during his career was Ajax whom he actually served between 2001 and 2006.

For the Tunisian national team, Trabelsi made a total of 66 appearances between 1998 and 2006. He actually took part in four editions of Africa Cup of Nations, namely the 2000, 2002, 2004, and 2006 editions, with Tunisia and actually won the 2004 edition with them. He was also part of the Tunisian national team in 1998, 2002, and 2006 World Cups where he played in all his team’s matches in 2002 and 2006 editions - and also in all the matches Tunisia played in 2004 Africa Cup of Nations. They say the strongest point in Trabelsi’s play is his pace and agility, but he has also setbacks like he’s not committed enough in his role.

Noureddine Diwa (Forward)

One of the first Tunisian footballers to play in a European league - actually in Ligue 2 and for the club, Limoges, Noureddine Diwa is a passed footballer who only played for three clubs during his career: The Tunisian clubs,

Stade Tunisien

and Esperance, and the French club, Limoges. Since Diwa is an old-timer footballer there is no information at hand how many goals he scored for Limoges and Esperance, but fortunately we know how many goals he scored for Stade Tunisien whom he served at the start of his career: 96 goals in 144 appearances which means he scored almost 2 goals (exactly 1.98) in every three appearances that he made for the Tunisian club.

Looks quite like a prolific goalscorer; what he also proved somehow with the Tunisian national team, too: He actually scored 9 goals in 23 appearances for them between 1956 and 1969 which is almost two goals in every five appearances. It might be interesting for you to know that Diwa is not this footballer’s actual family name but his nickname. His real name is Noureddine Ben Yahmed and Diwa is a nickname given to him by Stade Tunisien founder, Hamadi Ben Salem, which is a distorted form of the Arabic word “Doua” meaning “dilettante spirit”. Diwa was also nicknamed “Petit Kopa” - meaning little Kopa in French -  by the French newspaper, L'Équipe, in reference to the Real Madrid player, Raymond Kopa. Diwa died in April 2020 at the age of 83.

Tarek Dhiab (Midfielder)

Not only considered as one of the

best Tunisian footballers of all time

but also having been named the Tunisian footballer of the 20th century, Tarek Dhiab is a 68-year-old retired Tunisian midfielder who served only two clubs during his career: The Tunisian club, ES Tunis, for whom he scored 127 goals in 427 appearances and the Saudi Arabian club, Al-Ahli SC, for whom he scored 21 goals but we don’t know in how many appearances. Although the goals Dhiab scored were a factor in making him what he was indicating his scoring abilities from midfield, he was also known for his top passing and playmaking abilities as a midfielder.

During his playtime, there was no Tunisian Footballer of the Year award yet, but he actually managed to win the African Footballer of the Year award in 1977 for his top play for the Tunisian national team helping them qualify for the 1978 FIFA World Cup where they actually became the first African team ever in the history of World Cup to have won a match in the competition by beating Mexico 3-1. It might be interesting for you to know that around three decades later in 2006, in a coverage related to 2006 FIFA World Cup, Dhiab was considered as a Tunisia’s World Cup legend and one of the nation’s best players in the same competition by BBC and CBC, respectively. He is not a very highly decorated footballer but compared to some other footballers on the list he is considering that he won 12 club trophies including six Tunisian League titles with the clubs he served during his career.

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source: SportMob

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