Africa has produced a crop of exceptionally talented footballers in recent years, many of whom are in the twilight of their careers. Names Like Yaya Touré, Samuel Eto’o and Didier Drogba spring to mind.
These superstars need no introduction but the best is clearly behind them now as they wind down and wave goodbye to the big leagues.
Now African countries like Kenya are hard at work incubating a new set of youngsters who have the magic of football in their boots.
Lads likes Eliud Lokuwam, Brian Olango and Jacob Onyango may still be learning their trade but they are undoubtedly destined for greater things - either on the domestic level or on the world stage.
Then there are the incumbents; the men who have made it to the top flight but are still in the process of building their careers.
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These fast rising stars include the usual suspects like Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, guys who are at the forefront of the action… on and off the field.
Then there are a few equally skilled footballers who seem to avoid the spotlight but should be celebrated with the same vigour and enthusiasm nonetheless. These are the defensive giants, the men who are tasked with stopping goals rather than scoring them.
Here are three African footballers who deserve their place in the sun:
Kalidou Koulibaly - Napoli
The French-born centre back for Italian club Napoli may be a big guy but he has a touch of elegance on the field that’s beautiful to behold. He’s quick, aggressive and dynamite in the air. As a defender he has more than lived up to his nickname The Wall!
Koulibaly bagged the Belgian Cup in his debut season for Genk and followed that up with the Supercoppa Italia in his first season with Napoli. Along with his prowess at club level the 28-year-old boasts 38 caps for Senegal and was a key member of the national side that made it all the way to the final of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.
Koulibaly has been a fixture for the Serie A club since 2014. He has scored 10 goals in 158 appearances and is widely considered as one of the most complete defenders in world football.
Thomas Partey - Atletico Madrid
Thomas Partey is becoming a bit of a legend in his role as defensive midfielder for La Liga club Atletico Madrid. The 26-year-old Ghanaian is on an upward trajectory as far as performance is concerned, so much so that during the recent transfer window there was a legion of premier league clubs vying for his attention.
Partey has spent most of his professional career with Madrid and along with technical ability, defensive integrity and professionalism, his spatial awareness when tracking players making runs from behind is exemplary.
In his 100 appearance for the club Partey has scored 10 goals. He has also played regularly for the Ghana national side scoring eight goals in the process.
Riyadh Mahrez - Manchester City
Riyadh Mahrez is a French-born Algerian who plays on the wing for Manchester City. He spent a large chunk of his professional career with Leicester City, winning both the Championship and the Premier League.
In his debut season with the Citizens he won the league title, the FA Cup and the EFL Cup. Mahrez is known for his precision touches, intelligent runs off the ball and effortless eye-catching displays that ooze confidence and class.
The 28-year-old has come into his own under the watchful eye of Pep Guardiola and for Mahrez the sky is the limit!
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