Who are the greatest Nations Cup icons to have played for each of the major contenders at the 2019 tournament?
Samuel Eto’o just pips Rigobert Song to top spot here, as while the latter captained the Indomitable Lions to the title in 2000 and 2002, the former arguably left a greater mark on the tournament.
The striker was present for those two triumphs, hitting four goals during the Millennium campaign when he was only 17, and remains the Afcon’s all-time top scorer with 18 goals.
Eto’o, who could feasibly have been an option for the Indomitable Lions this summer, is a two-time Afcon Golden Boot winner.
There are numerous contenders here from the Pharaohs’ Golden Generation, and while Essam El Hadary just misses out, it’s hard to argue with Ahmed Hassan.
The midfielder is the only player to win the Afcon MVP award on two occasions and is also one of only two players—tied with El Hadary—to win four Nations Cup crowns.
Hassan’s Afcon dominance spans 12 years—from 1998 to 2010—and he was the influential captain at the heart of the tournament’s greatest team.
Rabah Madjer remains the only Algerian to win the Champions League, an achievement that somewhat overshadows his performances in the Nations Cup.
He represented Algeria in six tournaments, finally winning it in 1990, a decade after he and the Desert Foxes were defeated finalists at the hands of Nigeria.
The striker reached the semi-finals on two further occasions, but departed the continent’s highest stage on a sour note after the North Africans bombed at the 1992 tournament.
Madjer remains the only player to have won the Golden Boot in the European Cup and the Golden Shoe in the Afcon.
The legendary Congolese team of the late 60s and early 70s was full of iconic players, and acknowledgment must go to lethal frontman Ndaye Mulamba, Player of the Tournament in 1974.
However, his achievements don’t quite eclipse those of goalkeeper Kazadi Mwamba.
The stopper was twice a Nations Cup winner—in 1968 and ’74—and was also part of the team that reached the semifinals in 1972.
He was named tournament MVP during the then-Zaire’s first triumph.
Despite the claims of Aziz Bouderbala, who reached three Afcon semis, Ahmed Faras gets our vote here.
The Atlas Lions hotshot was a tournament winner in 1976, and also claimed the Player of the Tournament award after being Morocco’s star man during the competition.
He’s also a former African Footballer of the Year and arguably doesn’t get the respect today that his legendary achievements deserve.
The Black Stars have had plenty of Afcon greats over the years, from Joseph Carr to Osei Kofi, and from Wilberforce Mfum to Asamoah Gyan.
However, Abedi Pele is the only one to make the Team of the Tournament on three separate occasions.
Indeed, the Olympique de Marseille great often saved his best for the continental high table and was also named the tournament’s Best Player on one occasion.
While he never featured at the World Cup, he was a Nations Cup winner in 1982 and featured in four further tournaments during the 90s.
In 1992, a decade after his finest hour in the tournament, he and the Black Stars were pipped in the final by the Ivory Coast.
Despite the legacy of the Golden Generation, who loom large despite their repeated failure to bring home the big one, Laurent Pokou gets our nod as the Elephants’ greatest ever Afcon legend.
The striker was the tournament’s top scorer with 14 goals before being knocked off top spot—after three decades—by Eto’o, and was twice a semi-finalist with the Ivory Coast.
Pokou also won two Golden Boots, the tournament MVP once, and finished second in Caf’s African Footballer of the Year awards.