Since its inception in 1992, the Premier League has been host to some of Africa's most skilled players.
The 2018-19 Premier League season shed light on the brilliance of African players. As many as three African forwards - Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang - scored 22 goals each and shared the Golden Boot.
The league has also been graced by some all-time greats like Michael Essien, John Obi Mikel and Samuel Eto'o in the past.
Premier League clubs will be without some big hitters during the AFCON
The top-four race in the ongoing Premier League season looks set to go right down to the wire and the relegation battle will be nail-biting. Consequently, many teams in the Premier League will deeply feel the absence of some of their stars in January 2022.
These players will represent their country in the biennial African Cup of Nations (AFCON).
Many Premier League teams already have a tough run of fixtures in a very busy December. The absence of some key players could massively influence these teams' final outcome in what has been an extremely competitive season so far.
Here are the top five Premier League players who have the hopes of their countries on their shoulders come January in the AFCON.
#5 Emmanuel Dennis | Watford
Emmanuel Dennis joined Watford from Club Brugge in the summer. While there were doubts about his ability to adjust to the Premier League, Dennis has already put in several impressive performances for Watford. The Nigerian is their current top-scorer as well.
Dennis has scored six goals and assisted five for Watford in the Premier League this season and is proving to be indispensable to Claudio Ranieri. The Hornets, who are just three points off the relegation zone, are in desperate need of wins. Their survival chances will take a hit, with Dennis missing several games.
The forward is versatile and has adapted well to the Premier League, playing both centrally and on the wing. Dennis has made just three appearances for the Nigerian national side but his current form certainly merits him playing time in the upcoming AFCON.
#4 Riyad Mahrez | Manchester City
Riyad Mahrez has had his fair share of achievements in football, including the winner’s medal in the 2019 AFCON. The 2016 Premier League Player of the Season is a joy to watch on the wing with silky skills and a magical left foot.
Mahrez was one of the stand-out players for Leicester during their title-winning season. The Algerian has helped Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City on quite a few occasions despite having to compete for places in a squad brimming with talent.
Mahrez has scored 47 goals and provided 39 assists for the Cityzens since joining the club in 2018. Manchester City’s incredible squad depth is one aspect that will make up for the winger's absence next month when the AFCON gets underway.
Mahrez is captain of the Algerian national team and has scored 26 goals and provided 34 assists so far for them. Along with the likes of Andy Delort, Youcef Atal and Said Benrahma, he will look to defend the AFCON title and achieve glory once again.
#3 Sadio Mane | Liverpool
Sadio Mane is one of the best forwards in the Premier League right now. There is no doubt that his lethal finishing and eye for goal will provide a boost to his national side. The sensational Senegalese has been a superb signing for Liverpool, having joined the Reds from Southampton back in 2016.
Although he endured a slight dip in form in the Premier League last season, Mane is back amongst the goals this time around for a fantastic Liverpool outfit.
The pacy winger has scored 106 goals in 238 appearances for the Reds, including seven this season in the Premier League. He also has 44 assists to his name in a Liverpool jersey.
At the 2019 AFCON, Mane scored three goals as Senegal finished as runners-up to Algeria.
Mane has scored 26 goals and provided 18 assists in 80 appearances for his national team but Senegal have never won the AFCON. If Mane can be at his unstoppable best, they will certainly have a chance.
He has always been a key player for Jurgen Klopp’s side and will be dearly missed in the Premier League come January.
#2 Edouard Mendy | Chelsea
Edouard Mendy has been a revelation for Chelsea ever since he signed for the Blues from Rennes in 2020. Although born in France, his allegiance lies with Senegal and he will look to help his side win their first AFCON.
Mendy has kept 36 clean sheets for Chelsea in just 64 appearances. The 29-year-old has been a game-changer with his saves in several crucial games, including the Champions League knockout stages. Mendy kept one clean sheet in two appearances in the last AFCON.
The 29-year-old also has the record for most clean sheets in a single UEFA Champions League season, having kept nine in the 2020-21 season. Mendy was also named the UEFA Goalkeeper of the Season that year.
The Senegalese is currently joint-second on the list of most clean sheets in the Premier League, with seven so far, and has been an impenetrable wall for the Blues. There is no doubt that Chelsea will be severely affected by Mendy’s absence between the sticks during AFCON.
#1 Mohamed Salah | Liverpool
It should not be surprising that Mohamed Salah tops this list, given his form and consistency for Liverpool in the Premier League. One of the best players in the world at the moment, Salah already has 13 goals and seven assists in 15 Premier League games.
The 29-year-old Egyptian recently broke Didier Drogba’s record and is the highest-scoring African in Premier League history. Salah has 144 goals and 55 assists for the Reds in 223 appearances.
Liverpool's number 11 also has 43 goals and 24 assists to his name for his national side. Salah scored a couple of goals in the 2019 AFCON, but Egypt bowed out in the Round of 16 to South Africa.
The Egyptian, who is also the second Liverpool player on this list, will be a huge loss to Jurgen Klopp’s side. The winger will leave Liverpool in a tough spot even with the incredibly talented players that the Reds have in their squad.
The captain of the most successful team in AFCON history, Salah will look to lead Egypt to their eighth AFCON trophy.