More than 550 players will participate in the African Cup of Nations (CAN) in Ivory Coast from January 13 to February 11. Among them, stars like Sadio Mané or Mohamed Salah who no longer need to be introduced, players with lesser reputations but proven experience, promising young people and illustrious unknowns, who will perhaps be less so in the end. of the competition. Because history reminds us that each CAN final phase has allowed footballers to emerge from anonymity and really launch their careers.

Vincent Aboubakar (Cameroon)

The captain of the Indomitable Lions (31 years old) will undoubtedly never enjoy the same notoriety as Roger Milla, Patrick Mboma or Samuel Eto’o, his illustrious predecessors at the forefront of the Cameroonian attack. But the eight goals he scored during the 2022 African Cup of Nations organized in his country made him one of the current players most appreciated by supporters. The Besiktas Istanbul striker also gave Cameroon a prestigious victory against Brazil (1-0) during the last World Cup. The Lions’ offensive sector, hardly efficient in recent months, will depend a lot on its performance.

Victor Osimhen (Nigeria)

The former street kid from Lagos, who sold bottles of water at red lights, has become one of the best scorers on the planet. Victor Osimhen, 25, finished the 2022-2023 season as Italian champion and top scorer in Serie A (26 goals), and was even offered a golden bridge to continue his career in Saudi Arabia. He also ranked 8th in the 2023 Ballon d’Or for his first nomination. Absent in Cameroon in 2022 due to injury, very little used during the 2019 edition in Egypt (45 minutes), the Nigerian, author of ten goals during qualifying for the Ivorian CAN, received on December 11, 2023 the prize of best African player of the 2022-2023 season, during the CAF Awards.

Riyad Mahrez (Algeria)

In July 2023, the captain of the Algerian Fennecs left Manchester City, with whom he won everything, for Saudi Arabia, Al-Ahli and a salary of 35 million euros per year. African champion in 2019, Riyad Mahrez, who will turn 33 on February 21, hopes, with his teammates, to erase the painful memory of CAN 2022, where Algeria, logically presented as one of the favorites, was eliminated from the first round. Less spectacular than in 2019, the North African team will rely heavily on its brilliant left-hander, still just as influential in his team’s play. Djamel Belmadi, the Algerian coach, has never stopped trusting him.

Judge Ziyech (Maroc)

The relationship between the attacking midfielder and the African Cup of Nations is tormented, to say the least. Hervé Renard had not selected him for the 2017 edition, his CAN 2019 had mainly come down to a missed penalty against Benin (0-1) in the round of 16 and his conflict with Vahid Halilhodzic had decided the Bosnian technician to do not invite him for the trip to Cameroon in 2022. Since Walid Regragui moved to the Atlas Lions bench, the current Galatasaray Istanbul midfielder has reversed his decision to no longer wear the jersey Moroccan and seems totally liberated. Brilliant during the World Cup, this gifted but irregular player will be the main custodian of his team’s play.

Chancel Mbemba (Democratic Republic of Congo)

His real age remains an enigma. The defender claims to have been born in 1990, other documents indicate 1988 and 1991, while Anderlecht (Belgium), his first European club, certifies that Chancel Mbemba was born in 1994. The fact remains that The former FC Porto and Newcastle United player, now linked to Olympique de Marseille, is essential in the eyes of Sébastien Desabre, the French coach of the Leopards. The Congolese, very discreet in life, is one of the undisputed leaders of his national team, of which he is captain.

Ellyes Shkiri (Tunisia)

The Carthage Eagles midfielder belongs to this category of players about whom we don’t talk much, but whose absence is always difficult to compensate for. Born in France, Ellyes Shkiri (28) quickly opted for his country of origin in 2015 while playing for Montpellier, his training club. His departure for Germany in 2019, first to FC Cologne, then to Eintracht Frankfurt, one of the best clubs in the Bundesliga, allowed him to take a step forward and become a sure value in international football. A hard worker, rather technically gifted and incidentally a scorer, the Tunisian benefits from almost unlimited confidence from his coach, Jalel Kadri.

Nicolas Jackson (Senegal)

The match between Senegal and Gambia on January 15 in Yamoussoukro will have a very special flavor for Nicolas Jackson, 22 years old. The Teranga Lions striker was born in Banjul, the Gambian capital, and played for a local club, ASC Tilene, until he was recruited by Casa Sports Ziguinchor in 2018. He will only stay one year in Casamance, before joining Villareal, in Spain. His brilliant 2022-2023 season in La Liga allowed him to convince Chelsea to offload 36.7 million euros to attract him to London. Holder of a Senegalese passport, Nicolas Jackson was called by Aliou Cissé just before the 2022 World Cup.

Mohammed Kudus (Ghana)

If Ghana qualified for the Ivorian CAN, it owes it in part to Mohammed Kudus, 23, author of almost half of the goals scored by the Black Stars during this campaign (3 out of 8). This pure product of Ghanaian training, shaped at the Right To Dream Academy in Accra, made himself known during his time at Nordsjaelland (Denmark) and especially at Ajax Amsterdam, a club known for trusting young players . Now linked to West Ham (England), Mohammed Kudus has the advantage of being able to play midfielder or striker.

Omar Marmoush (Egypt)

Relatively few Egyptian footballers leave their country, where they enjoy good material conditions and play in the best championship in Africa, with that of South Africa. Omar Marmoush, now 24, made this choice at just 18, moving from Wadi Degla to WFL Wolsburg, Germany. Recruited by Eintracht Frankfurt in June 2023, the Egyptian striker is today one of the top scorers in the Bundesliga. Even if he is not a complete starter in the eyes of Rui Vitoria, the Portuguese coach of the Pharaons, in a competitive offensive sector, Cairo embodies a very promising new generation.

Bertrand Traoré (Burkina Faso)

All those who have been his teammates or who have faced him are unanimous: the Burkinabé winger is a talented player, technically above average, but too nonchalant and therefore irregular in his performances. Bertrand Traoré, 28, nevertheless remains one of the main offensive assets of the Etalons, of which he is captain. Despite his short playing time at Aston Villa, his club in England, Hubert Velud, his coach, maintains his confidence in him and started him in the two qualifying matches for the 2026 World Cup in November 2023 against Guinea -Bissau and Ethiopia.