African soccer players now frequently become household names in soccer fans’ lives. For example, Mo Salah and Riyadh Mahrez recently earned recognition on the 30-man Ballon d’Or shortlist. Sadio Mane is one of England’s most prolific and talented attackers. Kalidou Koulibaly is one of Europe’s best center-backs with Napoli.
The one thing these players have in common is their international standing. All represent African nations outside of club play.
A flourishing African soccer population leads some wondering where more African superstars will consistently come from. Some point to Lagos, Nigeria or Dakar, Senegal. Both have rapid-growing populations as Africa becomes increasingly modernized.
Yet, it does not have to be these major cities. One of the world’s best keepers came from Nkol Ngok, Cameroon.
Obviously, Africa produces no shortage of on-field talent. Most soccer fans in the world can point out Victor Osimhen, Achraf Hakimi, and Andre Onana. But, others, like Maduka Okoye, Silas and Krepin Diatta, are not as widely known.
Still, here are 12 different players who represent the next generation of elite soccer players from Africa. You will want to keep an eye on these fledgling careers over the next several years.
André Onana – Ajax/Cameroon
Birthdate: April 2, 1996
Cameroonian goalkeeper André Onana occupies numerous rumors. The media links him to Real Madrid, Inter Milan and Arsenal, just to name a few possible locations. Remarkably, Onana’s doping ban sidelined the goalie for the last eight months. Even then, his stock in the eyes of suitors remains high. Such is the power of the potential in his goalie gloves.
The Nkol Ngok native started his career in the famous La Masia academy at FC Barcelona. He steadily climbed the youth levels until, suddenly, the Catalans moved on. The club flipped the Cameroonian to Ajax in Amsterdam for roughly 150-thousand euros.
Ajax received a 20-year-old star in the making. Now, after six years, Onana is one of the best keepers in the world. Undoubtedly, the doping ban slowed his meteoric rise. Even then, he remains a highly coveted talent among Europe’s wealthiest teams.
Essentially, his talent creates limitless opportunities, depending on his standing in terms of doping. Look for Onana to lead the ever-growing scene of African goalkeepers.
Maduka Okoye – Sparta Rotterdam/Nigeria
Birthdate: August 28, 1999
Recently, Maduka Okoye lacks the form to make him a future great. However, Okoye remains a promising and talented goalkeeper drawing interest from Dutch giants Ajax. Perhaps the Nigeria native could be the replacement once Onana moves to a major European contender.
The Sparta Rotterdam stopper has potential to be one of the best shot-stoppers in the world. He just requires steady and consistent improvement.
So far, so good. From Leverkusen’s youth academies to Dusseldorf’s reserve team, Okoye now has eyes set on one of the Netherlands’ biggest clubs. Surely, Okoye’s trend goes upwards.
Okoye is a solid goalie. Yet, if you flipped on the news right now, you would not think that. Okoye conceded four times in a league game against Cambuur.
It’s just one game, but in a short-term outlook, there is a brief trend. Leading into the international break, Sparta Rotterdam is on a five-game run without a win.
Okoye is just 22, and he needs to tap into his potential. If that happens, you could see him starring in one of Europe’s best teams.
Achraf Hakimi – Paris Saint Germain/Morocco
Birthdate: November 4, 1998
Of all the African soccer players with potential, this player is perhaps the most accomplished.
Turning just 23 in 2021, Achraf Hakimi is already one of the best defenders in the world. The Morrocan right-back started his career in La Castilla at Real Madrid, making nine appearances for the first team. Then, a loan move to Borussia Dortmund kickstarted his young career. Later, he helped Inter Milan to a Scudetto for one season. Now, he starts as the right back for the Champions League front-runners, Paris Saint Germain.
Hakimi already lays claim to part of the best-defender-in-the-world conversation. Remember, he is only 22. Considering that, it is remarkable how significant he is to PSG’s success going forward. The Madrid native represents Morocco internationally, and could easily become a legend based on his current career growth.
Edmond Tapsoba – Bayer Lervkusen/Burkina Faso
Birthdate: February 2, 1999
Edmond Tapsoba draws in less acclaim than his competitors. Regardless, he is still an elite defender.
One of the best Burkinese players, he and his Leverkusen squad have yet to unlock their full potential. Going into the international break, we see some of that potential showing through. Currently, Bayer Leverkusen sits at second in the table based off goal differential alone.
Tapsoba started out showcasing his talent in Portugal’s Primeira Liga. From there, he joined Leverkusen, and the rest is history.
His 16 caps should increase as his future becomes brighter. But, Tapsoba won’t be in action soon because of a torn ligament.
Remember the name Edmond Tapsoba. It is only a matter of time before the 22-year-old is one of the best defenders in the Bundesliga.
Noussair Mazraoui – Ajax/Morocco
Birthdate: November 14, 1997
On the topic of Moroccan right backs, Noussair Mazraoui also holds seemingly endless potential. At one of soccer’s best youth development centers in Ajax, Mazraoui should be able to grow.
The Moroccan could become more flashy and consistent, even if his aforementioned compatriot is one of the world’s best at the position. Also, he can play in midfield roles to go with his right-back position.
If Mazraoui feels a change of scenery is necessary, his talent could please a number of top-tier clubs. Barcelona has interest in the Moroccan. Similarly, Arsenal and Bayern Munich keep tabs on the Moroccan. Despite Mazraoui flying under the radar, his name could pop up more as time flies by.
Ismael Bennacer – Inter Milan/Algeria
Birthdate: December 1, 1997
Algerian defensive midfielder Ismael Bennacer is one of the best African soccer players in the world.
Bennacer’s journey started at French club AC Arles. Soon after that he joined Arsenal. Perhaps the Gunners were too early in their acquisition of the Algerian. He left for various French clubs temporarily, and eventually left permanently for Empoli FC.
Throughout his travels Bennacer showed considerable promise. Therefore, AC Milan paid Empoli 16 million euros for his services.
He flourished at the San Siro, forming a consistent starting role for the seven-time Champions League winners.
Now, Bennacer evolved into a versatile central midfielder. The latest in a long line of Algerian world-class soccer players, Bennacer’s future will be very exciting to watch. Also, it doesn’t hurt when playing for a team with as much international presence as AC Milan.
Wilfred Ndidi – Leicester City/Nigeria
Birthdate: December 16, 1996
A Super Eagles stud and a Leicester City star, Wilfred Ndidi is already one of the Premier League’s best.
Ndidi left Nigeria to play for Belgian club KRC Genk. After just two seasons in Belgium, Leicester paid $20 million for the midfielder. Ndidi came over to fill the shoes of the irreplaceable N’Golo Kanté. While not quite on the level of his predecessor, Ndidi is one of the best defensive midfielders in the world.
After making himself into one of the Premier League’s most significant players, many question the Nigerian’s next steps. Some link him to Tottenham and Manchester United. Undoubtedly, any team would like to roster the midfielder.
Silas Katompa Mvumpa – VfB Stuttgart/DR Congo
Birthdate: October 6, 1998
A false identity issue banned Congolese midfielder Silas Katompa Mvumpa was banned for a brief session.
Known as Silas, the right midfielder will miss even more time with a cruciate ligament rupture. But, as he’s expected to return in November, he’ll be able to feature for a struggling Stuttgart squad.
Silas, a Kinshasa native, started his European career with Paris FC. Soon after, VfB Stuttgart acquired the Congolese. He bounced from the first division to the second division of the German pyramid Also, he missed over 250 days with his cruciate ligament rupture. Stuttgart expect him to make an impact upon his return.
Silas is dynamic, quick on the ball, and a genuine goal-scoring threat. The question mark remains the injury bug. If he can manage to stay healthy, there is not much stopping his rise to stardom.
He could be the face of Stuttgart if he can make an immediate impact upon his return.
Victor Osimhen – Napoli/Nigeria
Birthdate: December 28, 1998
One of the best attackers in Serie A, Europe, and the world, Napoli and Nigerian striker Victor Osimhen is out to prove himself after a middling 20/21 season. This African soccer player started his career with Wolfsburg. A transfer to Belgian side RSC Charleroi allowed him to grow. LOSC Lille served as his next home. Then, in the summer of 2019, he joined SSC Napoli.
In his first season with the Italian club, Osimhen bagged ten and assisted four in 30 games. Not a great tally, especially compared to his time at Lille. Fortunately for the Nigerian, he looks to be on form this season.
Through eight games in all competitions, Osimhen scored seven times and assisted once. His current pace may not be maintained for the entirety of the season. Regardless, the current tally surely puts him as one of the best attackers in Serie A this season.
Teams facing Napoli face the task of containing this quick and powerful striker.
Youssef En-Nesyri – Sevilla/Morocco
Birthdate: June 1, 1997
En-Nesyri, one of Sevilla’s best attackers, is also an elite playmaker for Morocco. A 24-year-old striker with tons of potential, En-Nesyri started his career at Mohammed VI Football Academy. Málaga then snagged the forward for around 125-thousand euros.
En-Nesyri climbed his way up through the youth academies before leaving for Leganes. Leganes flipped En-Nesyri to Sevilla, where the player currently resides.
At the ripe age of 24, it’s amazing that he holds 35 caps while scoring 11 goals. En-Nesyri can only get better as he ages.
Krepin Diatta – Monaco/Senegal
Birthdate: February 25, 1999
Diatta, an explosive right-winger with tons of potential, is part of Senegal’s talent pool. Diatta started his career with Oslo FA Dakar before joining Sarpsborg 08. After one year, he left for Belgian giants Club Brugge. Now, in the winter transfer window, Diatta joined Monaco for around 16.7 million euros.
So far in the season, Diatta scored one goal in nine games. Although it isn’t the most ideal start, it shows that the Senegalese winger is ready to try and produce. Diatta is a threat to Ligue 1, but we’ll have to wait and see how well he turns his chances into goals.
African Soccer Players in Europe
It is no secret that the best players in the world go to Europe to grow their careers. African soccer players are no different. A handful of players could start on any team right now, which is an accolade held by a select few.
The aforementioned players set themselves up for a career path to compete on the world’s stage. In time, there is a chance that the African continent could become a Mecca for soccer player development.
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