Picking Africa’s Dream Team of the season

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Which of the continent’s star men have made our 2018-19 dream team?

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    Andre Onana

    The Cameroon stopper delivered a series of outstanding performances for Ajax en route to the Champions League semi-finals, and was unlucky to be on the losing side after making a series of fine stops in the dramatic defeat by Tottenham Hotspur.

    It’s easy to see why Barcelona are keen on his services, with Onana having underpinned Ajax’s domestic double-winning campaign.

    He’ll be a key man between the sticks for Cameroon at the Africa Cup of Nations.

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    Noussair Mazraoui

    The right-back has caught the eye this term, building on his handful of appearances last season to establish himself as a key player for Ajax.

    Like Onana, he won the Dutch Cup and the Eredivisie, and has demonstrated his aptitude for the big games during the Amsterdam giants’ Champions League run.

    The versatile Mazraoui has the technical quality to be a major asset to Herve Renard’s Atlas Lions at the Afcon, and has reportedly been watched by Arsenal and Liverpool.

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    Djene Dakonam

    Anyone keeping tabs on Getafe this season would understand why Togo centre-back Djene has been linked with a move to some of Europe’s biggest clubs.

    Both Arsenal and Barcelona are reportedly considering a move for the defender, who’s gone from strength to strength over the last 10 months.

    His composure in possession and positional intelligence have been central to Getafe’s magnificent campaign, and they remained in contention for an unlikely Champions League berth until the end of the Spanish season.

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    Kalidou Koulibaly

    Arguably Africa’s best centre-back in the world today, Koulibaly’s Champions League campaign may have ended in the group stage, but he nonetheless impressed during a series of commanding displays.

    He helped the Partenopei keep clean sheets against Red Star Belgrade and Liverpool, and Manchester United are just one major club linked to the defender’s signature this summer.

    Domestically, he’s again been among Serie A’s best in his position, making decisive contributions and helping Napoli keep the third best defensive record in the division.

     

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    Youcef Atal

    Despite only arriving in France from Paradou AC of Algeria in July 2018, Atal required little time to acclimatise to Ligue 1 with OGC Nice.

    It’s not too far to suggest that he was one of the division’s best players this term, with his rampaging runs down the right side—either from full-back or a more advanced role—proving to be a nightmare for defenders in the French top flight.

    He’s scored six goals, and is among the three most effective dribblers in the division, and is reportedly courting interest from Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, Internazionale and Bayern Munich.

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    Wilfred Ndidi

    Ndidi continues to be critically underrated despite another fine campaign in the Premier League, he’s second only to Everton’s Idrissa Gueye in terms of tackles per game, and has been a consistently commanding presence in the heart of the Leicester City midfield.

    If he remains at the club—and there are rumours that he’ll move higher up the food chain—then he could be the key building block upon which Brendan Rodgers constructs his exciting new Foxes side.

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    Hakim Ziyech

    Anyone who wasn’t aware of the Morocco international’s quality before this season will definitely be under no illusion after his superb showings over the last year.

    Ziyech’s delicious curling effort against Spurs was his third UCL goal, and he also contributed assists in the first leg against Tottenham Hotspur and the second leg against Juventus, proving that he’s a man for the big occasion.

    Technically he’s superb, and he underpins that quality with an admirable work rate, attributes which have been critical to Ajax’s domestic double.

    In the Eredivisie, this season, he directly contributed 29 goals in 29 appearances, and has surely outgrown Dutch football.

     

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    Nicolas Pepe

    The Ivorian hasn’t got the credit he deserved—at least outside France—for his magnificent campaign with LOSC Lille.

    He was influential in dragging Les Dogues away from the relegation zone last term, but no one could have predicted that he’d have inspired the Northern side to Champions League qualification.

    They were Paris Saint-Germain’s closest challengers this season, with Pepe scoring 22 and contributing 11 assists during a sensational campaign.

    He’ll doubtless leave Lille this summer, but his performances this season—including two assists and a goal in a 5-1 demolition of PSG—will live long in the memory.

     

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    Sadio Mane

    Mane finally enjoyed a season uninterrupted by injury or suspension, and was unfortunate not to end the year with a Premier League winner’s medal.

    He netted 22 goals to win the Golden Boot, and dovetailed superbly with Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino, notably stepping up when the Egyptian forward had a slump in form.

    The Senegal international has netted against Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United in the league this term, reaffirming his status as a truly big-game player, and was sublime as Bayern Munich were eliminated in the Champions League.

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    Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

    Despite Arsenal’s toil, and his own problems—seemingly—to convince Unai Emery that he deserves a consistent starting berth, Aubameyang has nonetheless enjoyed another prolific campaign in the Premier League.

    The Gabon international ended the competition as the league’s joint-top scorer, despite scoring his 22 goals in seven starts fewer than Salah, and five fewer than Mane.

    The 29-year-old has developed an encouraging rapport with Alexandre Lacazette, although it’s been a transitional campaign for the Gunners, who will have to qualify for the Champions League through the Europa League if they’re to return to Europe’s top table next season.

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    Mohamed Salah

    Despite an eight-game goalless run, Salah remains Africa’s outstanding talent in the Premier League, following another fine campaign for Jurgen Klopp’s side.

    He hasn’t quite hit the heights of last term, when he scored 32 and contributed a further 10 assists, but 30 goal contributions this season—including 22 scored himself—is still an excellent return.

    When Salah has turned it on this year, defences have been unable to cope with him; witness his hat-trick away at Bournemouth, or the showing at Wolverhampton Wanderers in December, when he almost single-handedly dispatched Nuno Espirito Santo’s side.

    The attacker has been influential in the Reds’ run to the brink of the Premier League title, and even  though they did fall short, Salah is ensuring his legend at Anfield.

    Could he make amends for last term’s failure and win a UCL winner’s medal?