Africa Cup of Nations 2019: Five Players to Watch in Egypt Including Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane

The Africa Cup of Nations has often been blessed with a wide array of talent, but its stars have never been as visible as they are today.

In Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane the tournament boasts two of the best players in the world and the perfect figures to fill a stardom vacuum created by the retirement of Yaya Toure, Didier Drogba and Samuel Eto'o.

Newsweek has taken a look at five players who could star in Egypt.

Mohamed Salah—Egypt

In 2018, Salah arrived at the World Cup with fitness issues after injuring his shoulder in the Champions League final—which Liverpool lost. A year on, the 27-year-old scored the opening goal as the Reds beat Tottenham in the final to claim a sixth European title.

More importantly for Egypt, Salah is now fully fit and will be expected to lead his country to a first title since 2010. As the tournament hosts and the bookmakers' favorite Egypt will be under huge pressure, but in Salah it has arguably the continent's best player. Both look well equipped to deal with lofty expectations.

Sadio Mane—Senegal

If Salah is tasked with leading Egypt to a first Africa Cup of Nations in nine years, his Liverpool teammate Sadio Mane faces an even bigger job. As the highest-ranked African team, Senegal arrives into the contest as joint-favorite alongside Egypt, despite the fact it has never won the tournament.

Even though he's only scored twice in the last 11 games for Senegal, Mane is key to his country's chances. The forward finished joint-top scorer in the Premier League with 22 goals and will be desperate to make amends for missing a crucial penalty in the shootout defeat against Cameroon two years ago.

Sadio Mane, Liverpool
Sadio Mane of Liverpool FC celebrates the championship with the trophy during the UEFA Champions League match between Tottenham Hotspur v Liverpool at the Wanda Metropolitano on June 1 in Madrid Spain. Erwin Spek/Soccrates/Getty

Hakim Ziyech—Morocco

One of the faces of the ebullient Ajax side that dazzled its way to the Champions League semifinals, Ziyech finished the season with 21 goals and 22 assists in all competitions.

His speed and eye for the goal make the 26-year-old a handful for defenders and he will be crucial to the Atlas Lions' chances of lifting the Africa Cup of Nations for the first time since 1976.

Born in the Netherlands, Ziyech represented the country of his birth at youth level but has scored 14 goals in 25 appearances since switching allegiances to Morocco in 2015.

Nicolas Pepe—Ivory Coast

Following the retirements of Didier Drogba and Yaya Toure, success has been hard to come by for The Elephants. However, there's a new exciting generation on the block.

Pepe embodies that wave of talent and put himself on the radar of European soccer's heavyweights after recording 22 goals and 11 assists in 38 league games for Lille last season.

The fleet-footed winger has attracted interest from a host of Premier League clubs and will be a closely watched man in Egypt.

Nicolas Pépé’s 2018-19 Ligue 1 season by numbers:

38 games
118 total shots
108 fouls won
102 take-ons completed
70 chances created
22 goals
11 assists

There will be plenty of interest.

— Squawka Football (@Squawka) June 8, 2019

Thomas Partey—Ghana

A key figure for Atletico Madrid, the 25-year-old has developed into an accomplished defensive midfielder under Diego Simeone's stewardship.

At 5/1, Ghana is the bookmakers' third favorite to win the tournament behind Egypt and Morocco and Tettey will have a crucial role to play in his team's quest for a first continental title since 1982.

Riyad Mahrez—Algeria

Mahrez became Manchester City's record signing last summer for $75 million. His first season in Manchester was somewhat underwhelming but the Algerian redeemed himself on the final day of the season, scoring a crucial goal against Brighton as City pipped Liverpool to the title by a point to successfully defend its Premier League crown.

One step closer to the 🏆

Riyad Mahrez makes it 3-1!

— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) May 12, 2019

The 28-year-old will be hoping the goal was a sign of things to come as he will have a crucial role to play for his country in Egypt. Algeria last won the Africa Cup of Nations in 1990 and has failed to make the semi-finals ever since. However, in Mahrez it possesses one of the most talented players in the tournament.