Six of the XI players are from the Premier League.
Over the last decade or so, Africa has emerged as a hotbed for some of the most prodigious talents in world football. Accordingly, many clubs have shifted their focus to the African continent in search of talented players that can make their mark in European football. The likes of Yaya Toure, Samuel Eto’o and Didier Drogba were the best African footballers among countless others who became household names in football and have managed to leave a lasting legacy with their exploits on the field.
On that note, we take a look at some of the best African footballers and attempt to construct an XI using those stellar names.
GK – Andre Onana
Andre Onana has caught the attention of Europe’s elite clubs by his tremendously reliable displays between the sticks for AFC Ajax. He played a key role in the Dutch side’s run to the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League last year. Blessed with quick reflexes and excellent shot-stopping ability, Onana has all the tools to pull off outrageous saves to win games for his team.
He is technically sound and excels at playing out from the back, making him a valuable asset in the build-up phase. With his all-round skillset, the Cameroonian is an archetypical modern keeper and he could possibly develop into one of the best players in his position in the world.
RB – Achraf Hakimi
A Real Madrid youth product, Achraf Hakimi, spent two very successful seasons on loan at Borussia Dortmund before sealing a move to Inter Milan this summer. The Moroccan International is one of the brightest young prospects in football and his rampaging performances have earned him plenty of plaudits from observers.
From a wing-back/full-back role, he has incredibly amassed 10 goals as well as the same number of assists across all competitions last term. The 21-year-old’s tireless running, attacking forays and decisiveness in the final third saw him become a first-team regular at Dortmund. Now, having signed for Inter, he would be the perfect fit in Antonio Conte’s system and has the opportunity to further refine his game under the keen eye of the Italian tactician.
CB – Kalidou Koulibaly
Despite not enjoying one of his better seasons by his lofty high standards, Kalidou Koulibaly still remains a pretty elite centre-half. The Senegalese defender holds a commanding presence at the back, can dominate aerially and is comfortable with the ball at his feet, highlighted by his pass completion rate of 92.2%.
Furthermore, his organizational and leadership skills are less talked about but are equally important qualities. The 29-year-old brilliantly led Senegal to the final of the AFCON 2019 but fell short at the final hurdle, suffering a heartbreaking 1-0 defeat at the hands of champions Algeria.
CB – Joel Matip
Partnering Koulibaly in the heart of defence is Liverpool FC centre-back Joel Matip. The Cameroonian defender has been terrific in the last couple of years, which is evident by his inclusion in the CAF African team of the year for 2019. However, he couldn’t make a major impact last term as injuries restricted Matip to only twelve appearances in all competitions.
Matip lifted the Premier League trophy with Liverpool and also played a pivotal part in their 2018-19 Champions League triumph, where he started in six of the seven knock-out matches, including the final in Madrid. On the national front, things haven’t been going that well as the defender last played for Cameroon back in 2015 and has supposedly retired from the international set-up following the fiasco that followed his decision to snub the AFCON 2017 alongside some of his other compatriots.
LB – Ramy Bensebaini
Ramy Bensebaini might be something of an unknown quantity to many but he is slowly attaining prominence for his industrious displays at left-back. The 25-year-old signed for Borussia Monchengladbach last summer and became an important figure in the side under Marco Rose. He was even part of the Algerian backline that won the AFCON 2019. The full-back is known for his defensive nous and versatility that enables him to slot in different positions effectively. He made 19 appearances for the German outfit in his debut campaign, notching five goals and three assists, which aptly reflects his attacking acumen.
CDM- Thomas Partey
Thomas Partey has established himself as one of the most accomplished defensive midfielders around in world football. The Ghanian midfielder is regularly linked to a host of European clubs, which shouldn’t come as a surprise, given his all-encompassing displays in the centre of the park.
Not only is he proficient at screening the defence and disrupting the opposition’s build-up play with his excellent reading of the game and intelligent positioning, he can also initiate attacks by threading sharp passes to the attackers, bypassing midfield lines in the process. The 27-year-old is a consistent performer for the club as well as the country and deservedly bagged the Ghana Player of the Year awards in both 2018 and 2019.
RCM – Riyadh Mahrez
Dazzling forward Riyadh Mahrez has been one of the best wingers in the Premier League over the last few years or so. The silky dribbler won the domestic treble with Manchester City in the 2018-19 season, which was his first year at the club. Last year, he regularly featured on the right of a front-three, scoring 12 goals and providing 13 assists across 48 games for the Cityzens.
Furthermore, the attacker led Algeria to their first African Nations Cup triumph since 1990, scoring three goals in the tournament, including a stoppage-time winner via a free-kick against Nigeria in the semi-final. Besides, he was named CAF’s African Footballer of the Year in 2016 and additionally secured the 2019 African Goal of the Year award for his abovementioned stunner against the Super Eagles.
LCM – Hakim Ziyech
After four successful years at Ajax, Hakim Ziyech has decided to take the next big step in his career, completing a switch to Chelsea. Ziyech was a highly-influential figure in attack at the Dutch club as he regularly managed in opening up resolute defenses with his wand of a left foot.
Last season, the Moroccan international notched eight goals and 16 assists across 32 matches in all competitions for the Dutch side last season before football was suspended. However, his most prolific campaign in terms of attacking numbers came in the 2018-19 season when he mustered 16 goals and 13 assists in 29 league matches, which should excite the Chelsea faithful.
RW – Mohamed Salah
Mohamed Salah has enjoyed a whirlwind few years since his arrival in Merseyside. The Egyptian forward has won the Champions League and the Premier League, broken a number of records and has picked up the Golden boot among his other notable achievements during his remarkable time at Liverpool so far.
Known for his searing pace and goalscoring ability, Salah has plundered 32, 22, and 19 goals respectively in each of the last three seasons in the Premier League. On the other hand, he guided Egypt to the final of the African Cup of Nations in 2017 and was even named the African Player of the Year in 2017 and 2018, highlighting his elevated stature in the game right now.
ST – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been among the very few positives of Arsenal’s poor 2019-20 season. The lethal marksman scored crucial goals at decisive junctures of the game, bagging 22 league goals in addition to consecutive braces in the semis and the finals of the FA Cup to lead Arsenal to their 14th FA Cup triumph.
He is also the all-time top goalscorer for Gabon and in 2015, he became the first Gabonese player to be honoured with the title of the African Footballer of Year. The 31-year-old has just a year left on his contract and it remains to be seen if he signs a fresh deal following the FA Cup victory or still decides to embark on a new journey elsewhere.
LW – Sadio Mane
Operating on the opposite flank is Sadio Mane, Salah’s teammate and one of the most dangerous wide forwards around. Possessing blistering acceleration and directness, Mane has terrorized defences in England as well as in Europe and has also shown an eye for goal, indicated by him finishing joint top-scorer in the 2018-19 PL campaign alongside Salah with 22 goals to his name.
The Senegalese attacker followed that up with a tally of 18 goals and 7 assists in the recently concluded edition of the Premier League. Furthermore, he played an important part in Senegal’s run to the finals of the 2019 AFCON Cup and was subsequently presented with the African Footballer of the Year award.