AFS Top 20: January 2014

Published On 25/01/2014 | By Ed Dove | AFS Top 20, Exclusives, Features

In this feature, Africa Football Shop’s Editor-in-Chief Ed Dove runs down his Top 20 African players in World Football today.

This is the inaugural entry in a monthly series that aims to give an accomplished account and power ranking of the top African talent in the sport.

Is there someone we’ve forgotten? Is there someone who deserves no place among this elite selection? Comment below.

Ike Uche Ike Uche may appear to be a strange choice for this list, considering his on-going exile from the Nigeria national side and his disappointing display at the 2013 AFCON. You would be forgiven for thinking that the centre-forward was a player on the slide.However, this season the former-Getafe star has done what he does best: score goals.The striker has thrived with Villarreal as the Yellow Submarine have returned to the Spanish top table; he has scored 12 goals in 11 La Liga starts so far this season—32 percent of his team’s goals.
Serge Aurier In Serge Aurier, Cote d’Ivoire have the perfect figure upon whom to build a post-Golden Generation future.The defender is a class act. Capable of playing in the centre or on the right-side of a backline, he surely has an exciting career ahead of him, at the very top of the sport.Arsenal have been keeping tabs on him as Arsene Wenger plots a post-Bacary Sagna future. Could be one of the outstanding defenders of his generation.
Stephane Mbia Many players would have been unable to move on from a spell as dreadful as that which Stephane Mbia endured in England. At QPR the Cameroonian star became a laughing stock, regularly derided for his underwhelming displays, diving tendencies and lapses in concentration.
He has reinvented himself at Sevilla, however, and deserves great credit for the turnaround.
Mbia now operates as a dynamic box-to-box midfielder and has been linked with a move to Europa League-bound Napoli.
Wilfried Bony After a slow start to life in the Premier League, Wilfried Bony is finally beginning to purr and has been exhibiting, before an English audience, the qualities that made him such a feared forward in Holland.
At Vitesse Arnhem he scored a remarkable 51 goals in 69 games, terrorising defences with his strong play and powerful running.
Over the last month he has been in excellent form for Swansea. He scored twice, and was named Man of the Match, in the New Year’s Day defeat to Manchester City, he scored in the defeat against Tottenham Hotspur and, notably, he scored a late winner to defeat Manchester United at Old Trafford.
Ogenyi Onazi Young Nigerian midfielder Ogenyi Onazi was a revelation during the 2012-13 season.
He impressed for Lazio in the Europa League and then broke into the Nigerian first XI during the AFCON. He went on to have a pivotal role as the Super Eagles conquered a continent and became so influential that his absence (through injury) for the Confederations Cup prompted great misery among fans.
The diminutive star is an energetic, assertive player and has been linked with both Everton and Liverpool during the January window.
Sulley Muntari I would argue that Sulley Muntari is one of Africa’s most underrated players.
The Ghanaian has won the Champions League, the Serie A title twice, the FA Cup and the Club World Cup, he has played at two World Cups and has, on two occasions, been a semi-finalist at the Cup of Nations.He provides tenacity and bite in the heart of the Milan midfield and should be a key asset for the Black Stars in Brazil.
Joel Matip It is testament to his many qualities that Joel Matip has already become an established competitor in both the Champions League and the Bundesliga.
At only 22, he has already amassed over 120 games for Schalke and should be set to add to his 16 Cameroon caps during this World Cup year.
Certainly, as is the way with young defenders, there are occasional lapses, but Matip’s many raw qualities and his impressive showings to date indicate that we should all be getting very excited about his progress.
Ahmed Musa The young Nigerian forward enjoyed a fantastic 2013. He became an African and a Russian champion and has steadily grown into an important component of both the Nigeria and the CSKA Moscow first teams.
His electric pace and fine movement was on show at the Confederations Cup during the summer and he has the potential to be one of the outstanding individuals at the World Cup next summer.
Samuel Eto'o He took his time to adapt to the Premier League since arriving at Chelsea in the summer, but that was perhaps to be expected from a player who had been cruising at half speed at Anzhi Makhachkala in the Russian Premier League.
However, as he demonstrated in the recent EPL clash with Manchester United, he still has the quality to influence the very top end of competition.
Eto’o’s hat-trick in that fixture reminded the world of just what an exceptional goal-mouth operator he has been. Cameroon will hope he can roll back the years in Brazil next summer.
Nicolas N'Koulou At only 23, Nicolas N’Koulou has already played for two of France’s most-famous clubs, Monaco and Marseille.
He is a fine defensive all-rounder who possesses the physique and mental composure to thrive in the backline. He is also very capable when carrying the ball out of defence, making him a valuable asset for OM.
He may not remain in the Cote d’Azur for much longer however, Napoli recently had a bid rejected for the versatile Cameroonian—expect him to make a move in the summer.
Kwadwo Asamoah Following a dip in form during the first half of 2013, as Asamoah seemed to suffer post-AFCON blues, the Ghanaian midfielder looks to be approaching his irrepressible best for Juventus.
The versatile midfielder has the lot; he is energetic, he is a creative influence, he can tackle and he has the intelligence to fulfil a number of roles within Antonio Conte’s team.Whether he operates as a central playmaker or a left-sided runner at the World Cup, he will need to be at his very best for the Black Stars to escape from a tough opening group.
Didier Drogba Even at 35, Didier Drogba remains an exceptional forward capable of changing contexts with a moment of brilliance or ingenuity.
The Ivorian has scored seven goals in 16 starts in the Super Lig for Galatasaray so far this season and also scored twice in the Champions League group stage.
2014 brings a return to Stamford Bridge as Drogba returns to west London to face his former employers Chelsea in the European Cup group stage. It will also see him head to Brazil with his beloved Elephants—could Drogba and the remnants of the Golden Generation finally build an international legacy for themselves?
Benatia Benatia is another who has walked the well-trodden path from Udinese to glory at an elite European side.
This season he has established himself as one of Africa’s, if not one of the world’s, finest centre-backs. Roma’s fine start to the Serie A season has been built upon solid foundations and a watertight defence.
Benatia has been a key man in a backline that has leaked only ten goals in 20 games.
Emenike An explosive forward who has demonstrated an aptitude for the big occasion, Emenike established his reputation as one of Africa’s finest strikers during 2013.
He scored crucial goals during the Cup of Nations and despite missing the final through injury, still managed to claim the Golden Boot.He was also instrumental, scoring twice, as Nigeria beat Ethiopia to pencil their name into the World Cup guest list.
Gervinho Gervinho looked set for the scrapheap during the latter stages of his time at Arsenal. The winger was shorn of confidence and games were passing him by without him making any kind of significant impact.
His form for the national side was little better; he impressed in patches at the 2013 AFCON, but was largely anonymous.Since arriving at AS Roma, however, Gervinho has been a man reborn. His reunion with his former Lille manager Rudi Garcia has restored some of that lost confidence and he has been a key figure in the capital club’s magnificent season.
Mikel Mikel was a tremendous force during 2013. He was a majestic force for Nigeria as the Super Eagles claimed the African title and was also influential in ensuring that Stephen Keshi’s young side ensured World Cup qualification.
At the Confederations Cup in the summer, his outstanding goal against Uruguay was just a brief glimpse into the player Mikel might have been. He may not express himself too often, but when he does, he is an inventive and exciting midfielder.
The arrival of Nemanja Matic at Chelsea raises major questions about Mikel’s future. Might it be time to discover his future away from west London?
4. Salah What a trajectory Mohamed Salah has enjoyed over the last few years!
He moved from the Egyptian league in 2012, and has subsequently become a Swiss champion and represented Basel in both the Champions League and the Europa League.His fantastic form for club and country has attracted the attention of Liverpool and, most notably, Chelsea.
3. Enyeama Overlooked at times during his career, Vincent Enyeama is finally receiving the recognition he has long deserved.
His fine form with Lille brought him close to breaking Gaetan Huard’s long-standing record for consecutive clean sheets and earned him praise from across the world.Enyeama has a key figure during Nigeria’s run to the continental title in early 2013 and will be one of Stephen Keshi’s key on-field generals at the World Cup next summer.
2. Aubameyang Since moving to the Bundesliga from Ligue 1 side Saint-Etienne, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has established himself as one of the most-deadly forwards in Germany.
He has already scored 10 goals in 13 starts so far this season and should take on even more responsibility at Dortmund as Robert Lewandowski’s influence declines.At only 24, there is a lot more to come from this exciting striker.
Yaya Toure The Ivorian is the reigning BBC and CAF African Footballer of the Year…could anyone else truly top this list?The midfield powerhouse is overcoming a disappointing 2012-13 season and is rediscovering the form that made him such a fearsome offensive weapon for Manchester City.The former-Barcelona man has forged a fine partnership with Fernandinho at the Etihad Stadium and the Citizens are still competing on four fronts this season.




5 Responses to AFS Top 20: January 2014

  1. ojo akinola olugbengao says:

    Dove you’re right on every player you pick but I you to go down memory line youth of nowadays don’t know African past player like radba madja,ladkar belumi,roger miller,muda lawal etc

  2. Solace H.R says:

    quite an exhaustive list, and difficult to argue with any entry (could Asamoah Gyan have gotten in, maybe?) Few better defenders in world football than Mehdi Benatia, who is having a stellar season at Roma.

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