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AFCON 2021: Top 5 players who could win Player of the Tournament

Sadio Mane and Riyad Mahrez
Sadio Mane and Riyad Mahrez
Sushan Chakraborty

The African Cup of Nations (AFCON) is set to commence its latest iteration from January 9, 2022. The top African players are gearing up to give their all, hoping to go down in history by bringing the prestigious trophy home.

Today, we will take a look at some African stars who can set AFCON alight by putting in memorable, match-winning performances.

Here are five players who could end up winning the Player of the Tournament award at the end of AFCON 2021:


#5 Edouard Mendy - Senegal

West Ham United v Chelsea - Premier League
West Ham United v Chelsea - Premier League

Winning the best player at AFCON is no mean feat. It becomes almost impossible when goalkeepers and defenders are considered. Senegalese shot-stopper Edouard Mendy is the least favorite to win the Player of the Tournament award, but we just couldn’t keep him off our list.

The Chelsea custodian has been in exceptional form for his club over the last couple of seasons, pulling out mind-blowing saves time and again. Had it not been for Mendy’s eight clean sheets, the Blues would not have currently been in second position in the Premier League.

The 29-year-old has also conceded only one solitary goal in the Champions League this season in five games, keeping four clean sheets.

Cet arrêt de Edouard Mendy https://t.co/Kp1KfrKhhO

Mendy’s athleticism, command inside the box, and presence of mind could help Senegal go deep into the AFCON this year and maybe even help them win it.

Overall, he has represented Senegal 15 times, managing nine clean sheets.


#4 Sebastien Haller - Ivory Coast

AZ Alkmaar v AFC Ajax - KNVB Beker
AZ Alkmaar v AFC Ajax - KNVB Beker

During his time with Premier League side West Ham United, Sebastien Haller failed to establish himself as a player worth keeping an eye on. But the 27-year-old has reinvented himself at Ajax, benefitting massively from their free-flowing style of football.

Haller’s acute sense of positioning has been his biggest asset this season, and we are backing him to extend his fine run at AFCON 2021.

For Ajax, Haller has scored 10 goals in six Champions League games in the current campaign. His insane tally helped the Dutch giants win all six of their group stage fixtures for the first time in their illustrious history.

The Ivory Coast international’s breathtaking form in the Champions League made him the fourth player ever to score 10 group stage goals. Only Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, and Robert Lewandowski have achieved the feat before him.

Sebastien Haller wasn't happy about being asked if he would prefer to stay with Ajax rather than go to the African Cup Of Nations 😤 https://t.co/Nae0KJIEer

Haller will be responsible for being Ivory Coast’s primary goal threat at AFCON 2021. With the likes of Nicolas Pepe and Wilfried Zaha supporting him, expect Haller to carry over his scintillating Champions League form to Africa this month.

#3 Sadio Mane - Senegal

Everton v Liverpool - Premier League
Everton v Liverpool - Premier League

Captain of Senegal, Sadio Mane, will be one of the biggest stars at AFCON this January. The Liverpool forward has been ever-present at Anfield over the last five years, regularly popping up with important goal contributions. Mane is quick with the ball at his feet, has an unmatched work rate and is great at shooting from all distances.

Mane may not be one of the most esthetic players out there, but he is a coach’s delight. He carries out on-field instructions to a T and rarely runs out of gas over the course of a match. His defensive contribution is also something to write home about.

The UEFA Champions League and Premier League winner has taken part in 78 games for his country so far. He has scored 25 goals and provided 18 assists, with five goals and an assist coming at AFCON alone.


#2 Riyad Mahrez - Algeria

Aston Villa v Manchester City - Premier League
Aston Villa v Manchester City - Premier League

Algeria skipper Riyad Mahrez has been dominating the Premier League for a while now. He first won the top-flight title with Leicester City before repeating the feat twice more with Manchester City. Most importantly, he played a crucial role in all three title-winning seasons.

"What if I want to go higher? I do not see what is higher [than #ManCity]. I really love England and English football is wonderful. I don't want to leave. I still have goals to pursue here."-Riyad Mahrez, 2021. https://t.co/NwWVafPLRa

The right-winger is one of those few players who tends to deliver equally for both club and country. The 30-year-old played a starring role for Algeria at the AFCON in 2019, helping them to the title for the second time in their history.

The captain led from the front and scored three goals in seven games in the last iteration of the AFCON. His most memorable goal came in the semi-final against Nigeria. The Algerian international scored a direct free-kick in added time to win the game for his country.


#1 Mohamed Salah - Egypt

Chelsea v Liverpool - Premier League
Chelsea v Liverpool - Premier League

Liverpool number 11 Mohamed Salah is not only the best player in Africa, but also one of the best in the world right now. Captain of the Egyptian team, Salah is known for his electric pace, ability to contribute to his team’s build-up play, and ruthless finishing. The 29-year-old has all the qualities to set AFCON alight over the next month.

Since joining Liverpool from AS Roma in 2017, the Egypt international has arguably been Liverpool’s most consistent performer. This season alone, Salah has found the back of the net 16 times in the Premier League, emerging as the division’s leading goalscorer. He has also provided nine assists and is currently the English top-flight’s joint-leading assist provider.

𝟮𝟬𝟭𝟳-𝟭𝟴 𝟮𝟬𝟮𝟭-𝟮𝟮▪️ 20 games ▪️ 20 games▪️ 15 goals ▪️ 16 goalsMohamed Salah is ahead of his own record-breaking pace...Will he score more than 32 in the Premier League this season? 👀 https://t.co/EhRC5rEOaA

For his country, Salah has played in 73 games so far, registering 43 goals and 24 assists. Given his form at the moment, we are backing him to add plenty more at the AFCON this year.

Edited by Samya Majumdar

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