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AFCON- Africa Cup of Nations

Top 10 greatest African players to feature in AFCON (Africa Cup of Nations) history

Published at :January 10, 2024 at 1:59 PM
Modified at :January 13, 2024 at 11:37 AM
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Jimit Bhavsar


Some of the greatest African players have featured in the African Cup of Nations

The CAF (Confederation Of African Football), sanctioned the Africa Cup Of Nations, famously known as AFCON and it was first held in 1957.

African football is a powerhouse for many talents. Players like Didier Drogba, Samuel Eto’o, Jay-Jay Okocha and many more have graced African football. Many great African players have featured at AFCON as well. Here we take a look at the top 10 African players to feature at AFCON.

Mohamed Salah

Burnley vs Liverpool Mohamed Salah Premier League
Mohamed Salah lost the 2021 AFCON final against Senegal

Salah joins Drogba, Weah in the list of greatest African players to never win the AFCON. Mohamed Salah has had a rollercoaster of a career especially when he was at Chelsea. Eventually, the Egyptian winger came through and achieved massive success. Unfortunately, he could not do the same for Egypt, especially at AFCON.

Mohamed Salah scored 2 goals in the 2017 AFCON and 3 at the 2021 AFCON. The Egyptian eventually lost both of those tournaments in the final.

Sadio Mane

Contrary to his former Liverpool teammate, Sadio Mane has achieved success both at club and country level. Sadio Mane has done exceptionally well for Liverpool as well as for Senegal.

Mane has featured at many AFCON editions for Senegal but his team were almost never the favourites to win it. Senegal reached the finals in 2002 and 2019 but lost both of them unfortunately. Sadio Mane helped Senegal win their first-ever AFCON title in 2021 beating former Liverpool teammate Mohamed Salah’s Egypt in the final.

Jay-Jay Okocha

One of the greatest footballers ever and the greatest Nigerian player ever. Jay-Jay Okocha won the AFCON with the Super Eagles in 1994 hosted by Tunisia.

Okocha is known for his exemplary dribbling style and unique flair. Many skill moves were often named after him, his attacking presence in the midfield was prevalent as he cemented himself as one of the best attacking midfielders.

Yaya Toure

Pep Guardiola
Yaya Toure made a name for himself at Manchester City and FC Barcelona

One of the most underrated players of our generation, Yaya Toure made a name for himself at Manchester City and FC Barcelona. He did quite well for Ivory Coast as well.

The midfielder was slow but had great control over the ball and often went through defenders as it was nothing. Yaya Toure captained Ivory Coast to their first AFCON title in 2015 since 1992. Ivory Coast beat Ghana 9-8 on penalties in the final as captain Yaya Toure eventually lifted the trophy.

Michael Essien

The Ghanaian with the most Ballon d’Or nominations. Essien had a commendable career at a club level especially with Chelsea.

Essien made his AFCON debut in 2002. Ghana’s hero helped them through a tough quarter-final against Nigeria in the 2008 AFCON. He even assumed the captaincy in the same match. Eventually, Essien missed out on the 2010 AFCON due to injury and eventually joined the list of greatest African players to never win the AFCON.

Abedi Ayew Pele

Named after football’s god and Brazilian icon Pelé, Abedi Pele amassed 73 caps for Ghana. He was part of the 1982 AFCON winning Ghana side. From 1982 to 1992, he was the most dominant African player.

Abedi Pele helped Ghana reach the finals in 1992 scoring in three successive matches including the quarter and semi-finals. Pele received a yellow card in the semifinals which eventually cost Ghana as they lost on penalties to Ivory Coast.

Also Read: African Cup of Nations (AFCON): List of all winners

Essam El-Hadary

The most unheard player on this list but Essam definitely deserves to be on it. Essam has many individual accolades and titles as well to his name.

Egpyt’s goalkeeper Al-Hadary amassed 159 caps. He is the player with most AFCON titles winning it four times ( 1998, 2006, 2008, 2010). Essam even won the best goalkeeper of the tournament on three occasions. Essam is till date the oldest player to represent his country at the FIFA World Cup ( 45 years old).

Didier Drogba

Another legendary African player like George Weah to not win the AFCON. Didier Drogba also had a weak side in comparison to other teams but the Ivorian legend gave it his all. In fact, he has 12 goals in 11 matches for Cote D’Ivore at the African Cup Of Nations.

Drogba featured in three finals for Ivory but never won the title. One year after his retirement, Ivory beat Ghana on penalties to win the AFCON title in 2015 and Drogba led the celebrations.

George Weah

The only African player ever to win the Ballon d’Or, three-time African Footballer Of The Year George Weah is a commendable player. The Brazilian legend and football icon Pelé considered Weah as one of the greatest players ever.

Despite his individual success and club success, George could not do much since he represented Liberia. Weah represented Liberia and has 75 caps for them scoring 18 goals. Weah played at two AFCON tournaments but failed to win it.

Samuel Eto’o

Samuel Eto'o
Samuel Eto’o is Cameroon’s best footballer of all time

One of Cameroon‘s best football players. Samuel Eto’o achieved wonders in his club career, scoring numerous goals, winning many trophies and playing for the likes of FC Barcelona, Inter Milan and other clubs.

Samuel was definitely bound to make this list since he’s the all-time top scorer of the tournament. Eto’o was at the helm of Cameroon’s golden generation scoring 18 AFCON goals across six editions. Eto’o has won back-to-back AFCON titles in 2000 and 2002. Samuel is one of four players to score in six AFCON editions.

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