- Goal Kenya.
#5 Thomas Partey
Attacking players have typically clinched the Nations Cup Player of the Tournament award, although with the likes of Lauren and Rigobert Song clinching it in years gone by, the likes of Partey could reasonably hope for success.
The midfield powerhouse will play a key role in the heart of the Ghanaian midfield, where he’ll primarily be used to complement and supply the likes of Jordan Ayew, Andre Ayew and Christian Atsu.
He often comes into his own when his team are under pressure, and Partey will surely be a critical component if Ghana are to shine this summer.
#4 Hakim Ziyech
Ziyech is another player who thrives on the big occasion, just witness his stunning strike against Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League semi-final, where he was unfortunate to be on the losing side.
The playmaker is coming off the back of a league-and-cup double with Ajax, and should be motivated to star at the Nations Cup after an underwhelming showing at the World Cup last term.
He ended the Eredivisie season with 16 goals and 13 assists, and if Morocco realise their potential, could be a primary contender for the Afcon MVP prize.
- ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images
#3 Nicolas Pepe
LOSC Lille have already confirmed that Pepe will be moving on this summer, so it’s just a question of which of Europe’s giants can tempt the Ivorian wideman to join their project.
For the Ivory Coast, expect Pepe to help Elephants fans forget Ibrahim Kamara’s decision to leave Gervinho at home, while his partnership with Wilfried Zaha could be explosive.
#2 Sadio Mane
Mane has truly proved this term that he’s an elite big-game player.
He may have scored 11 goals in 10 Champions League outings last season, and this year, he continued that momentum by single-handedly eliminating Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals, before making the decisive—if controversial—intervention in the opening seconds of the final.
Mane hasn’t truly hit these kinds of heights with Senegal, but if he sustains the momentum of a fine campaign, he’ll be right up there come the latter stages.
- Getty Images
#1 Mohamed Salah
Salah once again excelled this term, striking 22 goals—with eight assists—in the Premier League, as well as a further five during a title-winning campaign in the Champions League.
He now has the silverware to underpin his talent, and will be aiming at further gold this summer as part of the hosts’ Afcon contenders.
There are still questions about whether Egypt have an attacking element beyond Salah—even though this has improved under Javier Aguirre—while a tricky opening group will be a tough obstacle to navigate.
Nonetheless, Salah and his compatriots have enough quality in abundance as they look to reach the latter stages.