The top 10 best players at AFCON 2023

The top 10 best players at AFCON 2023

2023 kicks off in ten days, with some of the world's best footballers suiting up in the Ivory Coast. Defending champions Senegal will be looking to repeat while Mohamed Salah seeks to lead Egypt to its first title in fourteen years. At the heart of the tournament are these ten players who give their team the best chance at AFCON triumph.  

10. Issa Kabore (Burkina Faso, Luton Town)

Versatile left-back Issa Kabore is poised to contribute significantly again at AFCON 2023. The Burkina Faso player previously won the Best Young Player award for stellar performances at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations

The Manchester City loanee currently stars for Luton Town in the Premier League. Let's hope he's fully recovered from his latest muscle injury so he plays the entire tournament.  

9. Azzedine Ounahi (Morocco, Marseille)

Ounahi made sure we all knew his name after the 2022 . Lyon sure did; the Ligue 1 signed him promptly in January 2023, scoring in his debut. 

The Moroccan midfielder, known for his box-to-box capabilities, is ready to replicate his World Cup highs at AFCON, where Morocco finished fourth. 

8. Riyad Mahrez (Algeria, Al-Ahli)

Hot off the 22/23 treble with Manchester City, Riyad Mahrez is now playing his football in the Middle East. But the 32-year-old captain still has much to contribute to the Fennec Foxes.

The five-time Premier League winner was born in France but chose to play for Algeria, where he's scored 30 and provided 36 assists in 89 matches. 

7. Mohammed Kudus (Ghana, United)

Mohammed Kudus could make all the difference for Ghana at AFCON. The forward has already significantly impacted 6th-place West Ham in the Premier League, scoring six goals in 16 matches so far. Fans voted for his goal against Brentford in November 2023, West Ham's Goal of the Month

6. Serge Aurier (Ivory Coast, Nottingham Forest)

The Ivory Coast captain is back for his 5th AFCON, and the game is in his backyard. The experienced defender was vital to his country's triumph at the 2015 games. Now 31, Aurier will be looking to bring his A-game to Les Éléphants once again.

5. Nicolas Jackson (Senegal, Chelsea)

The skeptics remain about Nicolas Jackson's slow start at Chelsea, but there's no doubting the 22-year-old talent. The Senegal striker looks to combine forces with Senegal's veteran talents of Koulibaly and Mane to win AFCON again.   

4. Victor Boniface (Nigeria, Bayer Leverkusen)

Forget that Nigeria has Victor Osimhen up front; they also have Leverkusen striker Victor Boniface. The 23-year-old is among the rising stars in Europe's top leagues, scoring 10 goals and providing 7 assists in his debut season on Xabi Alonso's undefeated Bundesliga team. 

3. Sadio Mane (Senegal, Al Nassr)

Sadio Mane led Senegal to its first AFCON title in 2021, defeating his then-Liverpool teammate Mo Salah on penalties in the final. Can Mane and Co do it again? Senegal is still a favorite this time around and could be the first team since Egypt's historic triple (2006, 2008, 2010) to win back-to-back titles. 

2. Victor Osimhen (Nigeria, Napoli)

Victor Osimhen is one of the most prolific center-forwards in Europe today. It's no wonder Europe's top clubs, including Chelsea and Arsenal, are vying for his transfer this winter, especially after he spearheaded Napoli's Serie A title last season.  

The 2023 African Footballer of the Year, Nigeria's first since Nwankwo Kanu in 1999, 

“Nigeria will win the AFCON and Victor Osimhen will win player of the tournament,” Nigeria's 2013 AFCON winner Mikel John Obi told CNN before this year's tournament.  

1. Mohamed Salah (Egypt, Liverpool)

What else about the Egyptian King and Liverpool legend Mohamed Salah? The Premier League star is only the third player to produce 20+ EPL contributions in seven consecutive seasons. He has over 150 cumulative strikes for the Reds, 14 goals, and 8 assists this season alone. 

Salah is arguably one of the league's best of all time. But he needs his AFCON redemption after the Pharaosh narrowly lost to Senegal in the 2021 AFCON final. It's among the few important trophies missing from the man's trophy case. Can Mo seal the deal for Egypt this January? 

Photo: Instagram/mosalah

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