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African footballers are ubiquitous in almost all of the world’s biggest leagues, with the continent’s players still one of the greatest contributions to global sport.
In 2019, some have been among the top performers in their respective divisions, setting the standard for African players abroad.
Here, ESPN’s Ed Dove picks out the outstanding African talent in each of the world’s biggest leagues over the last 12 months.
Premier League: Sadio Mane (Liverpool)
With Africa’s top stars featuring in the Premier League, competition for this spot was particularly fierce.
However, despite the claims of Mohamed Salah, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and Riyad Mahrez, it has to be Mane, following a magnificent year at the pinnacle of the game.
Coming fourth for the Ballon d’Or was testament enough to his achievements, even if some felt he ought to have finished higher in the ranking, and the Senegal international refined his finishing touch with 22 goals – sharing the Golden Boot along with Salah and Auba after the 2018/19 season.
His speed, work rate, finishing, and versatility in the final third have been key assets for Jurgen Klopp has he’s constructed a mesmerising Liverpool side who appear destined for the title, having already won the Champions League earlier this year.
It was Mane, don’t forget, who prompted the early opening in the final against Tottenham Hotspur when he won a penalty, although it was surely his single-handed evisceration of Bayern Munich which was his standout performance of the year.
In the Premier League, only Jamie Vardy has had a direct role in more goals than Mane’s 30 this term, and he was also influential as Senegal reached the final of the Africa cup of Nations.
Serie A: Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli)
Admittedly, the 2019-20 season has been tough for both Napoli and Koulibaly, as they lost their way under Carlo Ancelotti, were undermined by internal conflict, and have fallen well off the pace in Serie A.
However, Koulibaly has continued to demonstrate why he’s considered one of the finest centre-backs in world football, let alone in Serie A, with a series of commanding displays in the heart of the backline.
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