The AFCON is known to be a stepping stone for many young African players seeking to secure a move to a big European team thanks to the exposure the tournament provides.
After an exciting African Cup of Nations tournament here’s a look at the top 5 unknown stars who featured in the competition:
Mohamed El Shenawy
Egypt’s Mohamed El Shenawy only recently got his first National team call up for the 2018 World Cup where he performed brilliantly and earned himself the title of Egypt’s number 1.
Despite Egypt’s disappointing Round of 16 exit, Mohamed El Shenawy proved to be one of their best players in the African Cup of Nations having kept a clean sheet in all of Egypt’s group stage games, conceding only goal throughout the entire tournament.
Standing at 6’3, El Shenawy has a great reach between the sticks – he’s also able to make acrobatic saves thanks to his impressive athleticism.
He currently plies his trade in the Egyptian first division for Ah Ahly but he’d almost certainly perform quite well in Europe’s top 5 leagues.
Over the past few years, Algeria have been rated as one of the best National Team’s in Africa, and they’ve lived up to that billing after making it to the final of the 2019 AFCON tournament.
A number of their players such as Riyad Mahrez and Adam Ounas have made immense contributions to Algeria’s success at the AFCON, but one player who appears to have gone under the radar is Youcef Belailil, who has proven to be Algeria’s creative mastermind throughout the competition.
The 27-year-old created the second most chances in the entire tournament (12) in 5 appearances for Algeria.
Belaili scored the winner for Algeria when they met fellow finalists, Senegal back in the group stages.
His ability to find space and go past players often causes troubles for Algeria’s opponents.
Belaili currently plies his trade for Esperance Sportive de Tunis in Tunisia – his career thus far hasn’t been illustrious, but he could earn a big move to a European side off the back of his displays at the AFCON.
Chukwueze might have already made somewhat of a name for himself in La Liga, but his stock rose tremendously after his impressive showings for Nigeria in the African Cup of Nations, primarily the Quarter-Final tie against South Africa where he managed to find the back of the net.
Chukuwueze is undoubtedly Nigeria’s brightest star at the moment having shown the potential to lead the Super Eagles to great heights in the future – he’s not quite there yet, but with the right guidance he could become a World-Class player.
His display at the AFCON could open the doors to a move to the Premier League with Liverpool likely to table a concrete bid for his services after witnessing his ability in the tournament.
Under a manager like Jurgen Klopp it’s hard to envisage Chukwueze not reaching his full potential.
Lamine Gassama has been one of the most influential figures in Aliou Cisse’s Senegal side having managed to produced the goods when his team needed it the most.
The 29-year-old right-back’s performances have been nothing short of top notch for Senegal. He’s done a great job of keeping the right flank on lockdown, having established himself as one of the hardest men to beat in a 1 v 1 in the entire tournament.
In addition to his defensive prowess, he’s also made some great contributions to Senegal’s attack having registered two assists in four games for a side that only managed to win each of their knockout ties by one goal each.
Gassama currently plies his trade in Turkish league outfit Goztepe but his impressive displays at the African Cup of Nations could lead to a move to a much bigger team within Europe’s top 5 league.
Based on the overall quality of their squad, Uganda weren’t expected to reach the latter stages of the AFCON so it didn’t come as much of a surprise when they got knocked out of the competition in the Round of 16.
They put up a great showing in the group stages, though, primarily thanks to the efforts of Farouk Miya who dictated the proceedings in Uganda’s midfield and assisted two of the three goals they scored in the tournament.
Miya, 21, is one of the best players in the Ugandan National Team – throughout the AFCON tournament his ability to create something out of nothing helped his side to a respectable Round of 16 place – a performance that surely would’ve caught the eye of teams in Europe’s top 5 leagues.
Considering Miya’s age, he’s got a lot of room to improve, thus making the prospect of acquiring his services a more exciting one.
He currently plays for HNK Gorica in Croatia, but it won’t be long before the future of the Ugandan national team secures a move to a bigger side.