Salah, Mane, Mendy, Mahrez: The 2021 African Team of the Year sees Ziyech & Bailly miss out

  • Kobe Tong

African football will take centre stage in the beautiful game when the Africa Cup of Nations gets underway in just a few days’ time.

While the prestigious competition might have Liverpool fans pulling their hair out, there’s no denying that the tournament in Cameroon will mark the gathering of some of the world’s finest players.

Over the years, Africa has produced some of the greatest footballers in history from George Weah to Abedi Pele and Didier Drogba to Samuel Eto’o.

Standout African players of 2021

However, the depth in quality across the African game has arguably never been stronger with world-class stars like Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Riyad Mahrez ready to battle it out next month.

But before we look too far ahead into 2022, there are countless African footballers who have already caught the world’s attention with their scintillating performances across the last 12 months.

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As such, while the footballing community lists its umpteen ‘team of the year’ iterations as we wave goodbye to 2021, it only makes sense to focus in on the finest African XI for good measure.

Besides, with so many top performers shining this year such as Edouard Mendy and Joel Matip, you certainly wouldn’t envy anyone trying to sift through and sort all of 2021’s standout Africans.

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African Team of the Year

But alas, the International Federation of Football History & Statistics (IFFHS) have stepped up to the plate by naming their ‘MEN’S CAF TEAM 2021’ this week.

The revered statisticians of the footballing world have nailed their colours to the mast by going for an attacking XI that showcases some of the most impressive African footballers of the last year.

So, park all your thoughts and opinions on a global or European XI for now because there’s plenty of talent and quality to debate across the IFFHS’s African line-up that you can check out below:

GK: Edouard Mendy (Chelsea)


DF: Achraf Hakimi (Paris Saint-Germain)

DF: Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli)

DF: Ali Maâloul (Al Ahly)

MF: Amadou Haidara (RB Leipzig)


MF: Idrissa Gueye (Paris Saint-Germain)

MF: Franck Kessie (AC Milan)

FW: Riyad Mahrez (Manchester City)


FW: Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)

FW: Sebastien Haller (Ajax)

FW: Sadio Mane (Liverpool)


Substitutes: Andre Onana (Ajax), Eric Bailly (Manchester United), Joel Matip (Liverpool), Thomas Partey (Arsenal), Naby Keita (Liverpool), Baghdad Bounedjah (Al Sadd) and Hakim Ziyech (Chelsea).

Stacked with quality

It’s fair to say that the African Team of the Year would do some serious damage in the Champions League. Well, aside from the fact that the 3-3-4 formation might not be quite so practical…

However, there’s no denying the pedigree and quality of the line up with Mendy and Hakimi kicking off proceedings as surely the standout goalkeeper and right-back of the last 12 months.

Haller has been an absolute goalscoring machine in the Champions League, Mane is finding his best form again and Salah is arguably the best player in the world, period, based on current form.


As such, it’s no wonder that the standards are so high that Premier League talent from Old Trafford, Anfield, Stamford Bridge and more are forced to watch on from the sidelines.

It really is a fantastic advert for the brilliant footballers who fly the flag for African nations and we can’t wait to see how many of them perform at AFCON next month and across 2022 in general.



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