Who makes Futaa's combined XI of stars competing at AFCON 2019?
Africa's showpiece tournament is right around the corner and in preparation, we've compiled a combined best XI and a bench that could definitely give the world's best a run for their money.
The central midfield and attacking areas are particularly strong with Victor Wanyama settling for a substitute's role. With Joel Matip not in the fold for Cameroon, who takes his place in the heart of the defence? Here goes! We've selected a 4-2-3-1 and a talented bench of seven substitutes. Bear in mind that we have selected players that have featured prominently for their club's first team wherever possible.
Who makes your team and who gets axed?
GK. André Onana 🇨🇲 (Ajax Amsterdam)
The Cameroonian stopper came through the Barcelona ranks but was allowed to slip through the cracks. The 23-year-old has been outstanding for Ajax this season and made outstanding saves in their memorable semifinal clash in the Champions League against Tottenham. There might well be a high-cost auction for his signature come the transfer window.
RB. Achraf Hakimi 🇲🇦 (Borussia Dortmund)
On-loan from Real Madrid, the 20-year-old Moroccan is highly regarded around Europe and it's not hard to see why. He's got two goals and seven assists this season for the German side in all competitions this season, from an unfamiliar left-back role. His natural right back position is where he slots in here, and watch out for him next season where he will be staking a claim for Dani Carvajal's right back spot at Real.
CB. Eric Bailly 🇨🇮 (Manchester United)
It was a frustrating season for Eric Bailly both personally and at club level, with Manchester United finishing fifth in the Premier League despite a mid-season surge under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Medhi Benatia was considered for the XI but his lack of game time and the fact that he's the wrong side of 30 sees the younger Bailly preferred. Manchester United and Ivory Coast fans will be hoping to see the best of the 25-year-old in Egypt because when he's on his game, his pace and natural talent make him a formidable modern defender. He just needs to get on top of his injury problems and tendency to make the occasional mistake.
CB. Kalidou Koulibaly 🇸🇳 (Napoli)
K2, his nickname because of his imposing height, has attracted interest from clubs around Europe for the past few seasons. Napoli's second-place finish in Serie A this season has been in part down to Koulibaly's excellence and consistency. He's made 34 starts in 36 league outings and has become composed on the ball, an area that he has developed in the last few years, to supplement his aerial dominance and aggression. The complete package defender.
LB. Faouzi Ghoulam 🇩🇿 (Napoli)
The Algerian is one of the most underrated in his position in world football. After Napoli sealed a second-place finish in Italy after running Juventus close for portions of the season, Ghoualm again underlined his importance to the cause with three assists and a goal from his 12 Serie A starts. His season was blighted by injury but he will be determined to make the most of it with the Desert Foxes in Egypt as Algeria push for the AFCON title.
DM. Wilfred Ndidi 🇳🇬 (Leicester City)
No player in England's Premier League made more tackles than the 24-year-old Nigerian. Ever since N'Golo Kante's exit from Leicester, observers feared the worst for the Foxes, but Ndidi has stepped up in expert fashion to marshal Brendan Rodgers' midfield at the 2016 Champions.
DM. Franck Kessié 🇨🇮 (AC Milan)
It was a difficult start to 2018/2019 for the burly Ivorian midfielder, but he grew into the role brilliantly and Kessie notched seven goals and three assists from a predominantly midfield pivot position for a Milan side that struggled for consistency throughout the campaign. Still only 22, Kessie will have to improve his defensive awareness, unless his managers deploy him in a more advanced central role. He got two goals and an assist on the final day of the Serie A season and will be aiming to keep up where he left off during AFCON.
RW. Mohamed Salah 🇪🇬 (Liverpool)
Last season's Premier League player of the year had a slow start to 2018/2019 but he ended up as a joint-winner of the Golden Boot with 22 goals, sharing the award with two other African stars also in this team. Salah scored memorably against Chelsea in the Premier League and is a popular figure in the dressing room at Anfield. Mo Salah is now a Champions League winner with Liverpool and he netted in the opening stages of the final.
CAM. Hakim Ziyech 🇲🇦 (Ajax Amsterdam)
There are not many better left feet in the whole of Europe. Moroccan star Ziyech stunned the world with his tally of 19 goals & 15 assists across all competitions this season, and he was the driving creative force behind Ajax's amazing run to the Champions League final. It's unlikely that he will be at the Dutch club next season, with offers for his services streaming in from all quarters. But no one will ever forget his silky combinations with fellow left-footer Dusan Tadic and that improvised strike against Spurs after another typically flowing Ajax team move. One wonders where Ziyech will be playing his club football next season.
LW. Riyad Mahrez 🇩🇿 (Manchester City)
The 2016 PFA Player of the Year hasn't hit the heights of three years ago when he spearheaded Leicester's fairytale charge to the Premier League crown, but he remains a highly dependable operator and a man often selected by Pep Guardiola in big games for Manchester City. We've selected him here on the left, despite his preferred position being off the right flank to cut in with that wand of a left foot. Mahrez should be fit and raring to go and that's bad news for Algeria's opponents in Group C namely Kenya, Senegal & Tanzania. It looks like a group of death.
CF. Sadio Mané 🇸🇳 (Liverpool)
Arguably Liverpool's most important attacker this season, Senegalese star Mane has knitted it all together in 2018/2019 and become the complete package. Often a lack of consistency would be one criticism levelled at the wide man, but his 22 goals this season have earned him the Golden Boot in England and the respect of many defenders. He's also now another African Champions League winner and there's no wonder Real Madrid is rumoured to have registered an interest in the scintillating Senegalese star.
Substitutes bench ⚽️
- Dennis Onyango 🇺🇬
- Kwadwo 🇬🇭
- Victor Wanyama 🇰🇪
- Wilfried Zaha 🇨🇮
- Idrissa Gueye 🇸🇳
- Nicolas Pépé 🇨🇮
- Thomas Partey 🇬🇭
What do you think of the team, Futaa coaches?