The African Team of the Year for 2019 could and probably would win; the Premier League, Champions League and even the World Cup.
African players are finding European football more accessible and we might just be seeing the tip of the African iceberg.
By comparing the 2009 and the 2019 CAF Team of the Years we can see just how far African football has come… and how far it could go.
The class of 2009
While there were dozens of Africans in the Champions League ten years ago, some of the players in the CAF Team of the Year were still playing in their native continent.
The first of two players from Congolese club Tout Puissant Mazembe is goalkeeper, Robert Kidiaba.
An absolute legend if you are from Congo or a fan of TP Mazembe, you might not have heard of him otherwise.
Actually, we might be doing him an injustice there. He became an internet sensation thanks to his iconic celebration.
The first defender in the 2009 side was John Paintsil, then of Fulham.
He was at the London club for the glory days under Roy Hodgson but couldn’t make it into the starting XI for the Europa League final the following year.
Wael Gomaa of Al Ahly and Nadir Belhadj, who was on loan at Portsmouth, joined Arsenal’s Alex Song to make up a below-par back four.
There was some serious power in the midfield with Chelsea’s Michael Essien, a 2009 Champions League semi-finalist, joining Yaya Toure and Seydou Keita, both 2009 Champions League finalists in a strong midfield three.
Toure was nominated for the Ballon d’Or in 2009 while Essien was one of the fiercest midfielders in the world before injury plagued the later stages of his career.
Up front were two of the most decorated and talented African players of all time.
Didier Drogba and Samuel Eto’o’s names were synonymous with African football for a whole generation.
Two absolute monsters who would challenge for a spot in the 2019 side for sure.
Tresor Mputu, another Congolese player joined the pair up front.
Like Kidiaba, Mputu was a TP Mazembe legend, scoring over 150 goals for the club over two spells.
Class of 2019
Andre Onana was a Barcelona youth player having joined the club through the ‘Samuel Eto’o foundation.’
At the age of 19 he joined Ajax and played a key role in taking the Dutch side to the Champions League semi-final last season.
Having made 169 appearances for Ajax and after winning a domestic double last season at the age of 23, you’d imagine this won’t be his last appearance in the Team of the Year.
Serge Aurier is perhaps the weakest link in the modern side.
The Spurs man didn’t make the cut for the Champions League final and suffered injuries throughout last year.
He is joined by Liverpool’s Joel Matip who started, won and kept a clean sheet in the final of the European Cup.
The Cameroonian was immense for The Reds, especially towards the back end of last season, forming a monstrous partnership with Virgil van Dijk.
Kalidou Koulibaly was one of just five defenders to be nominated for the 2019 Ballon d’Or and is considered one of the best and most valuable defenders in world football.
The Senegalese centre-back is imperious and could well be on his way to the Premier League soon with his Napoli side struggling this season.
Achraf Hakimi makes up the back-line after seriously impressing at Borussia Dortmund.
The Spanish-born Moroccan is on a two-year loan deal from Real Madrid and the German side will be keen to hang on to him long-term.
A defence no forward would fancy their chances against.
There was some debate online over Idrissa Gueye’s inclusion with Wilfried Ndidi being key to Leicester City’s impressive season.
Everton’s form since Gueye’s departure shows how crucial his work in the middle of the park was.
He is joined by Riyad Mahrez and Hakim Ziyech, both technically gifted and tricky wingers.
Ziyech is on his way to Chelsea after he scored 21 goals in 49 games for his Ajax side in the 18/19 season.
Mahrez blows hot and cold at Man City but has featured in three out of the last four CAF Team of the Years.
Up front are the three kings of the Premier League last season.
Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang all got their own Golden Boots last year after all hitting 22 goals.
Salah finished fourth in the Ballon d’Or with his team-mate Mane just behind in fifth.
Messi even voted for Mane to win the honour claiming it would be “a shame” if he didn’t win it. High praise indeed.
To this day George Weah remains the only African player to win the Ballon d’Or.
Looking at the talent in the Team of the Year, we doubt that will be the case for too many more years.