The Africa Cup of Nations is always a star-studded affair, and while this can put a hardship on high-profile teams that lose some of their finest players, spectators get to see some of the best players in the world compete on an international platform.
There will be a slew of great attacking players competing in AFCON 2022, but there will also be plenty of undeniable world-class goalkeepers, defenders, and midfield maestros.
While many of the top players come from the Premier League, there are also players from Serie A, Ligue 1, and even the Eredivisie, as Europe sends some of its best players to compete.
Top ten players for the Africa Cup of Nations in 2022
Here is our list of the top 10 players to watch in the forthcoming AFCON 2022 and what to expect.
Mohamed Salah (Forward, Egypt)
Mohamed Salah, the show’s star, is on a goal-scoring spree, leading the Premier League in goals. He’ll be hoping that form carries over to the AFCON, when Salah will be the tournament’s most prolific goalscorer, with 45 goals in 74 appearances.
Riyad Mahrez (Forward, Algeria)
Mahrez has established himself as one of Man City’s most important players this season and could bring good attacking form to the tournament as the finest player on the defending African champions.
Mahrez scored a crucial goal late in a 2019 AFCON semifinal, and he should play a bigger role this season if Algeria is to defend its championship.
Sadio Mane (Forward, Senegal)
Sadio Mane prepares to lead a star-studded Senegal group as Liverpool loses a couple of outstanding attackers.
Mane has appeared exhausted due to overuse for Liverpool this season, and it wouldn’t be surprising if Senegal rested him at points during the group stage, but the tournament might also provide an opportunity for the Reds star to reclaim his best form: Mane has seven goals in his last 11 games for Senegal heading into the competition.
Edouard Mendy (Goalkeeper, Senegal)
For obvious reasons, attacking skill is at the top of the list, but Edouard Mendy has established himself as one of the greatest Premier League players since joining Chelsea in 2020, and his abilities should be on full show in this competition.
Senegal advanced to the final of the 2019 competition thanks to Mendy’s efforts, and they’ll be looking to win this time. The 29-year-old is statistically one of the best goalkeepers in the EPL this season, with WhoScored and SofaScore both ranking him in the top five, indicating that Senegal is getting one of the finest in the world at his best.
Thomas Partey (Midfielder, Ghana)
Thomas Partey has quietly developed into one of the Premier League’s most valuable players, and his absence will be felt at Arsenal. Indeed, the Gunners are said to be considering a deal to fill the month he could be away.
Partey is a true box-to-box talent who may lead Ghana deep into the knockout stage. He is second in the Arsenal squad in successful tackles and third in successful dribbles.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Forward, Gabon)
Aubameyang, who has been frozen out of the Arsenal squad and is reported to be on his way out, will be especially eager to play in the AFCON tournament this month and remind the world — and Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta — of his worth. Aubameyang had a difficult start to the league season before being sent off, and the international stage offers a chance for him to go back to his best.
Gabon has gone 4W-0L-0D when Aubameyang scored a goal in AFCON and World Cup qualification since November 2020, and 0W-5L-1D when he doesn’t, thus their tournament hopes are totally dependent on him.
Sebastien Haller (Forward, Ivory Coast)
Haller was a middling player in the Premier League during his time at West Ham, but he is a completely different player this season and a serious contender for the tournament’s top scorer award. Indeed, he is in the finest form of anyone in the competition, having scored 10 goals in six Champions League group-stage matches and another 12 in 17 Eredivisie matches this season.
If you look past Haller, you might be missing out on one of the tournament’s most interesting players. He could have a field day, especially with Wilfried Zaha and Nicolas Pepe on his side.
Wilfred Ndidi (Defender / Midfielder, Nigeria)
Ndidi will be sorely missed by Leicester City, who are already afflicted by injuries. He is one of the Premier League’s most underappreciated players, and he will be crucial to Nigeria’s hopes of winning the tournament.
Ndidi, who has been shifted to centre defence at times, is averaging nearly four successful tackles per match and has taken over as the Foxes’ midfield force from N’Golo Kante. While Kelechi Iheanacho and Ahmed Musa have been praised for their exploits in front of goal, Ndidi’s performances will influence how far Nigeria can progress.
Kalidou Koulibaly (Center back, Senegal)
The Napoli defender made headlines two years ago as a potential high-value transfer target, and he is still one of Europe’s best defenders. Koulibaly is the greatest center defender in Serie A this season, according to SofaScore, while WhoScored ranks him second.
Koulibaly is out with a hamstring injury, but he was included to Senegal’s team, indicating that he could return soon. It’s no coincidence that Napoli had only lost one league match prior to his injury, after which they had lost three of their next four.
Achraf Hakimi (Right back, Morocco)
Hakimi has long been one of Africa’s top young prospects, as proven by his 41 international caps at the age of 23. After a big-money move from Inter Milan to PSG this summer, Hakimi has made an immediate impact in Paris, scoring three goals and providing three assists from his right-back position.
He has been a regular in Morocco’s lineup for the previous two years, appearing in every minute of the team’s route to the AFCON 2019 knockout round. Youssef En-Nesyri, a teammate, will benefit from Hakimi’s crosses.
Other players to keep an eye on at the AFCON 2022:
- Kelechi Iheanacho (Forward, Nigeria / Leicester City)
- Wilfried Zaha (Forward, Ivory Coast / Crystal Palace)
- Andre Onana (Goalkeeper, Cameroon / Ajax)
- Eric Bailly (Defender, Ivory Coast / Manchester United)
- Trezeguet (Midfielder, Egypt / Aston Villa)
- Nicolas Pepe (Forward, Ivory Coast / Arsenal)
- Naby Keita (Midfielder, Guinea / Liverpool)
- Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting (Forward, Cameroon / Bayern Munich)
- Rais M’Bolhi (Goalkeeper, Algeria / Al-Ettifaq FC)
- Romain Saiss (Defender, Morocco / Wolves)
- Baghdad Bounedjah (Forward, Algeria / Al Sadd)
- Wahbi Khazri (Forward, Tunisia / Saint-Etienne)
- Jean-Michel Seri (Midfielder, Ivory Coast / Fulham FC)