10 best up-and-coming African players

New stars were born at the 2013 African Cup of Nations but some stars are also waiting to take the continent by storm very soon

Having moved to Rome from Conakry, Guinea to escape the country’s political instability, Cisse was picked up by Serie D side Arezzo, who nurtured and developed his prodigal talent. His confident attacking displays and impressive scoring statistics caught the attention of Academica Coimbra in the Primeira Liga, who signed him in July 2012.

His swift rise to the top has continued in Portugal, where his goals already have seen him identified among the finest young forwards playing in the nation.

A higher stage awaits, and Guineans everywhere can look forward to one of the globe’s most exciting young talents turning out for the Syli Nationale.

Richmond Boakye (GHANA/ JUVE)

Developed at Genoa, the Accra-born forward caught the attention of Italian giants Juventus in 2012. They spent €4m to purchase the talented attacker. Despite choosing to continue Boakye’s education down in Serie B with Sassuolo, there is a genuine hope among Juve officials that the striker will one day be a key player in the first XI.

Having made his debut for Ghana last year, Boakye was called up by the Black Stars for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations. But the six-footer never truly got a chance to shine in South Africa.

Still only 20, the explosive youngster has the potential to be a fixture in the Ghanaian line-up in years to come.


Despite turning out for France U-21 team, Niang may go the way of Adel Taarabt and Victor Moses and throw his hat in with the land of his parents (Senegal) rather than with France.

Quick and with excellent acceleration, Niang also boasts an impressive physique, as well as the strength to battle even the hardest Serie A defender.

Victor Wanyama (KENYA/CELTIC)

Capable of playing in defence or in midfield, Wanyama’s Glasgow side slapped a £25m price tag on the youngster after his pair of stunning performances against Barcelona in the Champions League group stage. Bought for less than a million pounds, this represents a terrific investment for the Hoops.

Already a seasoned international with Kenya, Wanyama could well become the symbol for a new force on the continental scene. Playing in midfield alongside his brother, Inter Milan’s McDonald Mariga, the Nairobi-born midfielder has the potential to become a new East African icon.


Not as high-profile a player as some of the others on this list, and playing for unfashionable Reading in the Premier League, 21-year-old Akpan could be seen as something of a left-field choice.

However, since making the enormous step up from League One Crawley Town in January, Akpan has looked comfortable in the EPL and has been one of the key figures in Reading’s resurgence in 2013.

Still only 21, Akpan has taken the long road to the Premier League, having been let go by Everton as a youngster.

Despite being born in Liverpool, Akpan has declared his interest to one day represent Nigeria, the land of his parents. The Super Eagles may not be short of top quality midfield talent but don’t be surprised to see Akpan muscle his way into the set-up in time for the 2015 Cup of Nations.


One man who may well be standing in Akpan’s way in the Eagles’ midfield is Inter Milan’s Joel Obi.

In the euphoria and the excitement of Nigeria’s first continental victory since 1994, few thought about the talented players who hadn’t made the cut for the tournament squad. Of the stars that didn’t make the final 23, Obi may well have been the unluckiest.

Eighteen months ago, Obi would have been seen as a sure bet for the AFCON squad, but a year plagued by injury and an absence of form have seen the talented youngster slip away from the national scene. All of the key components are there for the player to emerge as a top-class midfielder—he is versatile and speedy, has excellent technique and is capable of playing across the park.


Jordan Ayew has already featured at an AFCON but despite starting in Ghana’s opening game of their 2012 campaign, his contribution was negligible, failing to find the back of the net.

Combining beautifully with his brother Andre for both club and country, the younger Ayew offers quick feet, good movement and the drive to take defenders on.

In January, while the Black Stars laboured in South Africa, he scored in three consecutive games for Marseille. Although Jordan and his brother have announced their retirement from international football, it’s unlikely Ghana will risk heading to a major tournament in future without him.

Lacina Traore (ANZHI/CIV)

With the Golden Generation of the Ivory Coast gently fading into retirement after their latest failure at AFCON, the national side are going to be in need of a collection of new heroes like Traore.

The Anzhi Makhachkala striker may not yet have the aura of his predecessor, Didier Drogba, but the youngster towers over the veteran striker and will be harbouring hopes of replicating his stunning career. Signed for €18m as a key part of the revolution taking place in Russia, Traore has been flourishing in Russia.

Fast, powerful and capable of using his imposing height to rile even the most composed of defences, Traore is in prime position to lead the line for the Elephants for a decade to come.


Konate’s big breakthrough came at the London 2012 Olympics, when five goals helped to mark him out as one of the star strikers in the tournament.

The performances brought him to the attention of FC Krasnodar in Southern Russia, who beat competition from West Ham, among others, before parting with €2m to snatch him from Maccabi Tel Aviv.

His key attributes are positioning and finishing instincts and if his all-round game can improve alongside, we could soon be looking at one of Africa’s most complete forwards.

 Mohamed Salah  (EGYPT/BASEL)

The last two years may have been devastating for Egypt, with political upheaval and national tragedy being reflected in the turmoil and violent protests that have undermined and overshadowed the Egypt’s football.

But there are good signs on the horizon, and the brightest of these is forward Mohamed Salah.

Currently plying his trade in the Swiss Super League with Basel, Salah is capable of providing direction and vitality on the left flank, while also offering an attacking threat through the middle.

Salah will be the figure-head of Egypt’s quest to revive their dominance once again.



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