Some of the world’s best players have come from African countries, but they have had contrasting fortunes in the continent’s greatest tournament. Samuel Eto’o won it twice, for example, but Didier Drogba and Mo Salah, two of the Premier League’s finest strikers, have never lifted the trophy.
Here we look at some of the most successful players from Africa and how they got on at AFCON
Samuel Eto’o – Cameroon
Samuel Eto’o won the 2000 and 2002 versions of AFCON with Cameroon, as well as many other trophies and awards. He was voted African player of the year four times and, despite not winning AFCON in 2006 and 2008, was the tournament’s top goalscorer. He won the Champions League four times with three different clubs – Real Madrid, Barcelona and Inter Milan, contributing to a total of 21 major trophies as well as a gold medal with Cameroon in the 2000 Olympic Games.
Didier Drogba – Cote D’Ivoire
One of the greatest strikers in Premier League history, Didier Drogba won almost everything with Chelsea but never won AFCON, finishing runner-up twice, in 2006 and 2012, where he was the tournament’s top scorer. That same year he scored the winning penalty in the Champions League final for Chelsea, with whom he won four Premier League titles and four FA Cups and three League Cups. He was voted African player of the year in 2006 and 2009 and won the Premier League golden boot in 2006/07 and 2009/10.
Yaya Toure – Cote D’Ivoire
Unlike Drogba, Yaya Toure capped a magnificent club career with a winners’ medal at AFCON, helping Cote D’Ivoire lift the trophy in 2015, having been a runner-up twice. With Barcelona, Toure won two La Liga titles and lifted the Champions League in 2009. After moving to Manchester City, Toure scored the winning goal in the 2011 FA Cup final and went on to win three Premier League titles. He was African player of the year four times and honoured by the Football Writers’ Association in 2023 for his contribution to English football.
Mohamed Salah has won pretty much everything at club level with Liverpool, but has never won AFCON, finishing as runner-up twice, most recently losing the 2022 final on penalties to a Senegal side led by his team-mate Sadio Mane. Despite early success with FC Basel, winning three Swiss League titles, he struggled at Chelsea and AS Roma before moving to Liverpool for a club record £43m in 2017. The trophies soon followed, with the 2019 Champions League, then a year later Liverpool’s first Premier League title for 31 years. He has also won the FA Cup and League Cup with Liverpool, been voted FWA Footballer of the Year twice and won the Premier League Golden Boot three times. But AFCON still eludes him.
Sadio Mane – Senegal
Like his former Liverpool team-mate Salah, Sadio Mane has won everything at club level – but unlike Salah, he HAS won AFCON, leading Senegal to victory in a penalty shoot-out against Salah’s Egypt in 2022.
The pair of them enjoyed huge success in Liverpool’s forward line, winning the Champions League in 2019, the Premier League a year later and both FA Cup and League Cup. He was Premier League top scorer in 2019, and voted African player of the year twice. After leaving Liverpool, Mane won the Bundesliga and the German Super Cup with Bayern Munich before moving to Al Nassr in Saudi Arabia. At 31 he is still playing and now has over 100 caps for his country.