Goal 25 2020: The best 25 Arab players in the world

GOAL 25 LIST
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Goal's Middle East and North Africa experts have put together a list of the footballers who impressed most over the last 12 months

Since 2008, Goal has been presenting the Goal 50 prize for the best player of the year to stars like Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Robert Lewandowski.

And in 2017, Goal launched Goal 25, ranking the best 25 Arab players of the year.

For the last three years, it was Mohamed Salah who dominated, although he faced stiff competition from the likes of Riyad Mahrez and Hakim Ziyech.

Goal 50

This year, our experts on the Arabic language editions voted once again for the best 25 players of 2020 from 21 clubs, nine leagues and five countries.

Morocco (12 players) were the best-represented country and the Premier League (seven players) the best-represented league. Below you can find the full list including the winner for 2020.

  1. Yunis Abdelhamid | Stade de Reims | Morocco
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    #25 Yunis Abdelhamid | Stade de Reims | Morocco

    Stade de Reims captain Yunis Abdelhamid was one of the main reasons why they ended up sixth in Ligue 1 last season, playing every single minute of his team's matches before the league was brought to an early end.

    Reaching the Coupe de la Ligue semi-final was another highlight for the 33-year-old. And while he missed only two matches this season, David Guion's team couldn't manage to maintain the same level from last season - they are currently outside the top 10 in Ligue 1.

  2. Yasser Al-Shahrani | Al-Hilal | Saudi Arabia
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    #24 Yasser Al-Shahrani | Al-Hilal | Saudi Arabia

    Flying left-back Yasser Al-Shahrani continued to impress with Al-Hilal last year, proving that he can play on the right flank as well for his coach Razvan Lucescu.

    He missed only five games in the Saudi Pro League last season, helping his team to win the title. He was solid against Al-Nassr in the Saudi King's Cup final to achieve the domestic double in 2020.

    Al-Shahrani also missed only three matches this season until now as Al-Hilal stay top of the league table. With six assists in 33 matches, the 28-year-old is arguably the best full-back Saudi Arabia have.

  3. Munir El-Haddadi | Sevilla | Morocco
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    #23 Munir El-Haddadi | Sevilla | Morocco

    Sevilla coach Julen Lopetegui has been relying on versatile forward Munir El-Haddadi to play in all attacking positions 2020, as the 25-year-old rediscovered his form, playing a huge role in the Europa League success with five goals in nine matches.

    Munir is trying to switch his international allegiance after one single match with Spain national team in 2014, after he managed to score six goals and provide three assists in 33 matches last year.

  4. Youssef El-Arabi | Olympiacos | Morocco
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    #22 Youssef El-Arabi | Olympiacos | Morocco

    Being the 2019-20 Super League Greece top scorer by 17 goals is proof of how untouchable Youssef El-Arabi has been for Olympiacos, who won the domestic double last season.

    Arsenal experienced how decisive El-Arabi can be when he scored the 119-minute goal in the Europa League round-of-32 second leg match to knock Mikel Arteta's team out.

    The former Al-Hilal and Al-Duhail star scored 25 goals and bagged five assists in 45 matches during 2020, and the Moroccan striker is showing no intentions to slow down after he scored another three goals in the first three matches in 2021.

  5. Amine Harit | Schalke | Morocco
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    #21 Amine Harit | Schalke | Morocco

    What a disastrous year it was for German club Schalke, who went 31 matches without a Bundesliga win.

    With that being said, Amine Harit caught the interest of clubs like Barcelona and Atalanta with his performances.

    And as he ended a bad year for his team, the Moroccan contributed to ending Schalke's winless streak in the last 12 months with a goal and three assists against Hoffenheim, achieving a 4-0 win earlier in January.

  6. Mohamed Elneny | Arsenal | Egypt
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    #20 Mohamed Elneny | Arsenal | Egypt

    Before 2020, Mohamed Elneny had experienced a difficult two years. But this changed after his loan spell at Besiktas, which caught AC Milan's attention. before eventually earning him a return to Arsenal in the summer.

    The Turkish club could be now regretting their decision against triggering their purchase option due to their financial situation, as he won the Community Shield trophy against Liverpool and put in some convincing performances in another 18 matches with the Gunners before the end of the year.

  7. Mohamed El-Shenawy | Al-Ahly | Egypt
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    #19 Mohamed El-Shenawy | Al-Ahly | Egypt

    Mohamed El-Shenawy has been in phenomenal form since 2018, both with his club and the national team.

    While the 32-year-old lost the Egyptian Super Cup to Al-Zamalek on penalty shoot-outs, El-Shenawy was perhaps the most important player for treble winners Al-Ahly last year.

    The goalkeeper managed to keep 23 clean sheets in 34 games in 2020, and his performance against Al-Zamalek in the CAF Champions League final was his highlight of the year.

  8. Baghdad Bounedjah | Al-Sadd | Algeria
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    #18 Baghdad Bounedjah | Al-Sadd | Algeria

    Baghdad Bounedjah was the second-best player in Qatar last season after his team-mate Akram Afif.

    Winning both the Qatar Stars Cup and Qatar Emir Cup compensated for the Qatar Stars League loss, the striker scored 14 goals and assisted nine in 28 matches in 2020.

    The 29-year-old entered last year with just six goals and four assists in two matches, which shows what the 2019 IFFHS World's Best Top Division Goal Scorer is capable of.

  9. Achraf Bencharki | Al-Zamalek | Morocco
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    #17 Achraf Bencharki | Al-Zamalek | Morocco

    The best foreign player in Egypt last year, Achraf Bencharki was instrumental for Al-Zamalek in reaching the CAF Champions League final, before losing eventually to Al-Ahly SC.

    The former Lens forward scored eight goals and created eight assists in 26 matches last season, and managed to win two trophies in one week with his club: the CAF Super Cup and the Egyptian Super Cup.

  10. Akram Afif | Al-Sadd | Qatar
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    #16 Akram Afif | Al-Sadd | Qatar

    Left-winger Akram Afif might have lost the Qatar Stars League to Al-Duhail last year, but he still guided Al-Sadd to winning both Qatar Stars Cup and Qatar Emir Cup.

    The 2019 Asian Footballer of the Year also won both the 2020 Qatar Stars League Player of the Year and was the league top scorer with 15 goals last season.

    This season he's scored five goals and provided five assists in eight matches, before getting injured in December. Described by his coach Xavi as an unbelievable talent, the 24-year-old should definitely showcase more of his brilliance in 2021.

  11. Romain Saiss | Wolverhampton | Morocco
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    #15 Romain Saiss | Wolverhampton | Morocco

    An integral part of the Wolves best XI with 36 games last year, Romain Saiss contributed to his team's seventh-placed finish in the Premier League in 2019-20.

    His late header against Tottenham last month rescued a point for Nuno Santo's team, and although Marcus Rashford's shot deflected from the Moroccan to inflict a 1-0 loss the following match, Saiss put in a man-of-the-match performance against Manchester United.

  12. Youssef En-Nesyri | Sevilla | Morocco
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    #14 Youssef En-Nesyri | Sevilla | Morocco

    Scoring 15 goals in 49 matches in 2020 meant that Youssef En-Nesyri was one of the most prolific Arabs in Europe last year, which saw him win the Europa League title with Sevilla.

    And after scoring nine goals this season in 2020, the 23-year-old began his 2021 career with a hat-trick against Real Sociedad, ensuring that he will be even more important for the Andalusian team this year.

  13. Said Benrahma | West Ham United | Algeria
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    #13 Said Benrahma | West Ham United | Algeria

    After nearly leading Brentford to Premier League promotion, Said Benrahma earned himself a place in the English top flight with a move to West Ham.

    The 25-year-old has yet to fulfill his full potential under David Moyes, with the coach stating that his player needs to improve to get more minutes but, with the talent that he possesses, the Algerian winger could be soon an important player for the London side.

    Benrahma scored 14 goals in 2020 with Brentford, while he's bagged two assists in nine games with the Hammers.

  14. Sofyan Amrabat | Fiorentina | Morocco
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    #12 Sofyan Amrabat | Fiorentina | Morocco

    After missing only three matches due to suspension and one due to muscular fatigue last season with Hellas Verona, Sofyan Amrabat earned himself a move to Fiorentina last summer.

    Although his team has been struggling this season, the 24-year-old still proved himself as one of the best holding midfielders in Serie A. 

  15. Salem Al-Dawsari | Al-Hilal | Saudi Arabia
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    #11 Salem Al-Dawsari | Al-Hilal | Saudi Arabia

    After a tough year in 2019, creative winger Salem Al-Dawsari bounced back last year to ensure that he is still the most popular player amongst Saudi fans - and arguably the most talented player the Gulf region has to offer.

    With nine goals and nine assists in 2020, he was by far the best Saudi player in the last 12 months, winning the Saudi Pro League title last season and helping Razvan Lucescu's team to stay at the top of the table this season.

  16. Aissa Mandi | Real Betis | Algeria
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    #10 Aissa Mandi | Real Betis | Algeria

    With his proven ability to play in all defensive positions, Aissa Mandi consistently provided convincing performances with Real Betis, maintaining his status as one of the most important players at Benito Villamarin.

    The Algerian participated in 27 matches with the Andalusian team last year, and after he reportedly caught Liverpool's interest last summer, it seems that Inter are right to try to sign the 29-year-old next summer.

  17. Abderrazak Hamdallah | Al-Nassr | Morocco
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    #9 Abderrazak Hamdallah | Al-Nassr | Morocco

    It was a very turbulent year for Al-Nassr striker Abderrazak Hamdallah. He continued to achieve good numbers but had some problems with his club, especially during the current 2020-21 season.

    Last year, the former Morocco international played 33 matches - scoring 29 goals and making five assists - to maintain his title as the Saudi Pro League top scorer last season.

    And while his team were knocked out at the semi-final stage, the 30-year-old managed to win the AFC Champions League 2020 top scorer title with seven goals.

  18. Hakim Ziyech | Chelsea | Morocco
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    #8 Hakim Ziyech | Chelsea | Morocco

    Hakim Ziyech made the move to the elite level last summer, joining Chelsea from Ajax. 

    The Moroccan concluded his time with the Dutch giants by winning their Player of the Year award for the third year in a row and has started his English career well with 14 games, two goals and four assists to his name already.

    Hampered by injury this past month, he returned to Frank Lampard's side recently against Manchester City, and we can expect much more from him this year.

  19. Mahmoud Trezeguet | Aston Villa | Egypt
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    #7 Mahmoud Trezeguet | Aston Villa | Egypt

    Hands down, 2020 was the best year of Mahmoud Trezeguet's career up to now after he managed to reap the fruits of his hard work and patience in previous seasons.

    The Egyptian winger was introduced slowly into the Aston Villa starting XI last year until he became one of the most influential and popular players at Villa Park.

    The former Al-Ahly player scored four goals and made two assists in 31 matches last year, and his highlight was that memorable goal in the Carabao Cup semi-final second leg against Leicester City.

  20. Ramy Bensebaini | Borussia Monchengladbach | Algeria
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    #6 Ramy Bensebaini | Borussia Monchengladbach | Algeria

    After joining Borussia Monchengladbach in 2019, versatile Algeria international Ramy Bensebaini established himself as one of the best full-backs in the German Bundesliga in 2020.

    Despite suffering a muscular injury at the beginning of last year, he quickly regained his place on the left flank of Marco Rose's team, being rarely absent from the starting XI except for some matches missed due to Covid-19.

    The 25-year-old played 21 matches last year, including 18 starts, scoring five goals and making three assists in the process.

  21. Ismael Bennacer | Milan | Algeria
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    #5 Ismael Bennacer | Milan | Algeria

    In 2020 Milan enjoyed their best year for some time, and for Ismael Bennacer it was the best year of his career at club level. 

    The Algerian midfielder put in some amazing performances with Milan to cement his place as an untouchable player in Stefano Pioli's team, playing 40 matches before getting injured last month.

    Milan will have a hard time next summer ensuring that they don't lose the 23-year-old in the transfer market.

  22. Yassine Bounou | Sevilla | Morocco
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    #4 Yassine Bounou | Sevilla | Morocco

    Winning the Europa League title with Sevilla was the perfect culmination of Yassine 'Bono' Bounou's year as one of La Liga's best goalkeepers.

    Bono participated in 28 games last year, getting 15 clean sheets and making 82 saves to successfully convert himself from a second-choice goalkeeper to the No.1 in Julen Lopetegui's team.

    Gaining recognition as a goalkeeper isn't easy, but the Morocco international was too instrumental to be denied a place in the top five.

  23. Achraf Hakimi | Inter | Morocco
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    #3 Achraf Hakimi | Inter | Morocco

    Achraf Hakimi was one of the most in-form right-backs in Europe last year, playing 38 matches with Borussia Dortmund and Inter and contributing seven goals and eight assists in 2786 minutes.

    Unfazed by the different football styles in Germany and Italy, the Moroccan already seems like a veteran Serie A player with his instrumental performances.

    The former Real Madrid defender has now managed to prove himself in three big leagues, and the future seems to be only getting brighter for the 22-year-old.

  24. Riyad Mahrez | Manchester City | Algeria
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    #2 Riyad Mahrez | Manchester City | Algeria

    At club level, Riyad Mahrez's 2020 was perhaps not the best year of a career which has seen him win two Premier League titles. 

    But on an individual level, Mahrez got a real chance at Manchester City and Pep Guardiola relied on him as a key player in his team.

    The Algerian participated in 44 games in all competitions, during which he played 2890 minutes, scoring 12 goals and making five assists.

    Overall, 2020 was definitely a successful year for Mahrez.

  25. Mohamed Salah | Liverpool | Egypt
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    #1 Mohamed Salah | Liverpool | Egypt

    If you asked Mohamed Salah about the best year of his career, his answer wouldn't be the year that saw him win the Champions League or the year that saw him break the record for most goals in one Premier League season, but rather the year that saw him lead Liverpool to their first English league title in 30 years.

    The Egyptian is enjoying the greatest time of his career, and he is currently in the running for the Premier League Golden Boot award under Jurgen Klopp's team.