Tuesday Dec 24, 2019. 09:00
With the end of the year fast approaching, it’s time for us to pick our top five African players of 2019. Here, in no particular order, is our star quintet.
Mohamed Salah – Egypt & Liverpool
While 2019 saw the major disappointment of Egypt making an early exit from the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, this was still another great year for Pharaohs and Liverpool star Mohamed Salah. The forward has continued to score goals for fun, helping the Reds to win the UEFA Champions League, FIFA Club World Cup and establish what looks to be a potentially decisive lead in the Premier League.
Sadio Mane – Senegal & Liverpool
Like Salah, Sadio Mane also endured disappointment at the 2019 AFCON when Senegal lost in the final to Algeria, but his club form – particularly in the current season – has been absolutely scintillating. The Teranga Lions forward has taken his game to a whole new level and it would be no surprise if he were to be named CAF’s African Player of the Year when their annual awards are held early in 2020.
Hakim Ziyech – Morocco & Ajax
Quite how Hakim Ziyech is still an Ajax player is hard to fathom. The Moroccan winger’s excellence for the Dutch giants has been clear for all to see and he will surely be moving to a major European power either in the January transfer window or at the end of the season, given his great influence in Ajax’s run to the UEFA Champions League final last season and their continued dominance of the Eredivisie.
Ismael Bennacer of Algeria – Algeria & Empoli/AC Milan
While Ismael Bennacer has not yet settled at a struggling AC Milan, he fully merits his place on this list for his excellent form in the colours of Empoli in the second half of last season, and especially his performances for Algeria in their 2019 Africa Cup of Nations triumph. The young midfielder was the fulcrum of the Fennec Foxes’ fantastic run in Egypt and he is set to become one of the continent’s premier torch-bearers in years to come.
Youcef Belaili – Algeria & Esperance de Tunis/Al Ahli Saudi
Too often we ignore the exploits of the top players on the continent in favour of their European-based counterparts, but Youcef Belaili’s influence for Esperance de Tunis was simply too good to overlook. The Algerian winger scored in every round of the knockout phase of the CAF Champions League, including the winner in the controversial second leg of the final, and he left an indelible mark on both the tournament and African football in 2019.