Africa has long been a treasure trove of some of the most talented stars in world football. Even though the continent has not enjoyed much success in the World Cup, several players have gone on to reach new heights in the game, both individually and collectively.
While the likes of George Weah, Didier Drogba, Samuel Eto’o and Yaya Toure have dazzled the footballing landscape with their precocious talents in the past, a series of other players from the current generation are on course to achieve legendary status.
With that in mind, we take a look at the best XI of African players based on their performance in the 2019-20 season:
Goalkeeper: André Onana (Cameroon/Ajax)
Cameroon’s Andre Onana had come up clutch for Ajax once again this season, conceding the second-lowest amount of goals (21) in the Eredivisie while also keeping eight clean sheets. Even though the league has now been cancelled, it’s undeniable that he was top-notch while it lasted.
Right-back: Achraf Hakimi (Morocco/Borussia Dortmund)
The Real Madrid loanee has continued his development with Borussia Dortmund, adding an extra dimension to the attack with his creativity and buccaneering runs down the right flank.
Achraf Hakimi has already surpassed his figures from last season, with the 10 assists he’s made so far one of the highest for a full-back in Europe’s top five leagues.
Centre-back: Salif Sane (Senegal/Schalke 04)
Salif Sane’s 2019-20 season may have been curtailed because of an unfortunate knee injury but the 29-year-old enjoyed a stormer before the setback.
Strong in the air, athletic and hard to dispossess, the defender made an instant impact last season after arriving from Hannover and continued to deliver on that promise this term as well. It’s not surprising that the average goals the Royal Blues concede per game goes up from 1.36 to 1.67 when he’s not in their starting XI.
Centre-back: Kalidou Koulibaly (Senegal/Napoli)
Koulibaly continued to make his mark as one of the best defenders in world football. It was a reputation fueled by his consistent performance for Napoli.
Big, strong, a good reader of the game with good feet on the ball, Koulibaly headed to AFCON 2019 with so much expected of him. He did not disappoint as led the best defence at the tournament to the final.
Left-back: Hassane Kamara (Gambia/Stade de Reims)
At the heart of Reims’s impressive defensive record this season is Hassane Kamara: a player who has been rock solid at the back and who has also won the most Man of the Match awards among the defenders in Ligue 1 with seven.
The French-Gambian’s shortcomings on the offensive front are easily compensated by his defensive performances which include amazing tackles and inch-perfect long balls. He also averages 83% passing success besides possessing enviable dribbling skills.
Midfielder: Wilfred Ndidi (Nigeria/Leicester City)
Wilfred Ndidi has been the unheralded star in Leicester City’s squad, doing all the dirty work behind their stellar attacking frontline.
The Nigerian ranks third in the Premier League in terms of tackles made (91) and has also garnered superlatives for his ball distribution skills. He has quickly established himself as an important part of Brendan Rodger’s plans and, at 23, his best is still to come.
Midfielder: Riyad Mahrez (Algeria/Manchester City)
Having won the 2019 AFCON Cup with Algeria, Riyad Mahrez has packed a punch with Manchester City this season even as the overall form of the side has been erratic.
A creative genius with precocious dribbling skills, he has netted seven times and assisted ten goals to be one of the top performers in the Premier League so far.
Midfielder: Hakim Ziyech (Morocco/Ajax)
Moroccan ace Hakim Ziyech has been in scintillating form this season, devouring every defence on his way to six goals and 13 assists, keeping Ajax firmly on course to retain the Dutch title before the season was eventually cancelled.
The 27-year-old is on his way to Chelsea next season and, given his wide range of skill set, is set to bolster Frank Lampard’s already-vibrant attacking vanguard.
Right-winger: Mohamed Salah (Egypt/Liverpool)
Mohamed Salah has exhausted every superlative in the dictionary with a string of elite performances week in and week out, and as you’d expect, he’s been absolutely instrumental to Liverpool’s title push this season.
In top form once again, the Egyptian ace has netted 16 goals and remains in strong contention to pick up his third consecutive Golden Boot, besides also chipping in with six assists.
Left-winger: Sadio Mane (Senegal/Liverpool)
Sadio Mane has firmly established himself among the best attackers in the world and his contributions to the title-chasing Liverpool team has been indelible.
The reigning African Player of the Year has ably partnered Salah in the vanguard while also scoring 14 times and providing nine assists himself.
Striker: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon/Arsenal)
Even as Arsenal blew hot and cold this season, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang continued to be at the top of his game as he dragged his side through the mud with talismanic performances.
The Gabon international’s tally of 17 strikes is bettered only by Jamie Vardy in the Premier League and accounts for almost 43% of the total goals accrued by Arsenal. The 30-year-old marksman has also directly contributed to 16 points – the most by any player in the league.