Africa Cup of Nations: An All-Time XI From AFCON History

The Africa Cup of Nations 2019 edition comes to a close on Friday evening as Senegal vie for their first-ever title against a free-scoring Algeria in Cairo.

Bonafide superstars of European football like Kalidou Koulibaly, Riyad Mahrez and Sadio Mane all have the chance to become card-carrying legends for their countries, while the latter even admitted that winning ?AFCON would mean more to him than the Champions League medal he picked up with Liverpool just a month and a bit ago.

As the class of 2019 eye immortality, here’s an all-time XI of the tournament’s greatest stars…


Goalkeeper & Defenders

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Essam El Hadary (GK) – The incomparable El Hadary (gloriously nicknamed the ‘High Dam’) made 159 appearances for Egypt between 1996 and 2018, when he became the oldest player ever to feature in a World Cup finals at 45. He has won AFCON four times (1998, 2006, 2008, 2010) and was named as the tournament’s best keeper on three occasions. 

Honourable mention: Thomas N’Kono

Lauren (RB) – An ‘Invincible’ with Arsenal in 2004, Lauren is a two-time AFCON winner (2000, 2002) with the dominant Cameroon side of the early noughties that also won Olympic gold in 2000. His AFCON highlight came when he scored in the penalty shootout victory against Senegal in the 2002 final to retain the trophy.

Arthur Boka (LB) – Although never an AFCON winner, Ivory Coast’s Arthur Boka earns a place in the side for playing at five tournaments between 2006 and 2013, twice finishing on the wrong end of a penalty shootout defeat in the final. The pacey full back once dubbed the ‘African Roberto Carlos’ also won the Bundesliga against the odds with Stuttgart in 2007.

Rigobert Song (CB) – With eight tournaments under his belt, no-one has played at more AFCONs than former Liverpool, West Ham and Galatasaray star Song. He was captain as the Indomitable Lions won in 2000 and 2002 and was still wearing the armband in 2008 when they lost to Egypt in the final. The uncle of former Arsenal star Alex Song, he finished his international career in 2010 with 137 caps.

Wael Gomaa (CB) – One of the finest defenders never to play in Europe, Gomaa was a key member of the Egypt side that won the 2006 trophy and then defended it in 2008 and in 2010. 

The bald enforcer, who featured in all three of those tournaments’ Best XIs, retired in 2014 with six CAF Champions League titles to go with his AFCON medals.


Midfielders

Jay Jay Okocha and Pierre Wome Nlend

Geremi (CM) – An invaluably versatile operator, Geremi could play at the back on the right or in central midfield. He made seven AFCON squads for Cameroon winning twice in 2000 and 2002 alongside Lauren and Song. Among his other career honours, the free-kick specialist won two Premier Leagues, the UEFA Champions League and an Olympic gold.

Honourable mention: Yaya Toure

Abedi Pele (CM) – Regarded as one of the finest African footballers of all time and one of the first to make waves on the European game, Pele was also successful on his own continent, winning AFCON with Ghana in 1982 as a teenager. He scored three times and was named the tournament’s Best Player as the Black Stars returned to the final in 1992.

Jay-Jay Okocha (CM) – One of the most entertaining footballers to watch in the history of the modern game, Okocha’s dribbling, skill and invention saw him crowned Nigerian Footballer of the Year seven times. A key part of the 1994 AFCON winning Nigeria team, Okocha also won the tournament’s Golden Boot and Best Player award in 2004.


Forwards

Samuel Eto'o of Cameroon celebrates after scoring the opening goal of the match

??Samuel Eto’o (FW) – Eto’o might well be the greatest African footballer there has ever been. A three-time Champions League winner with Barcelona and Internazionale, the prolific striker was named African Player of the Year on four occasions, won AFCON twice (2000, 2002) and is the all-time top scorer in the competition’s history with 18 goals.

Honourable mention: Roger Milla

Mohamed Aboutrika (FW) – The talisman of Egypt’s AFCON wins in 2006 and 2008, the tricky forward is a bonafide legend in his homeland whose popularity is perhaps only just being matched by Mohamed Salah. The ‘Prince of Hearts’ scored the winning penalty against Ivory Coast in the final of AFCON 2006, while he coolly slotted a second-half winner past Carlos Kameni in 2008 to give Egypt a 1-0 win over Cameroon in the 2008 final.

Hossam Hassan (FW) – Representing the Pharaohs at seven AFCONs, Hassan is still Egypt’s all-time top scorer with 69 goals and, with 169 caps, is the second-most capped player in international football history. First winning AFCON in 1986, he then captained Egypt to their win on home soil in 2006 at the grand old age of 40.


Manager

Zambian coach Frenchman Herve Renard smi

Herve Renard – There can be only one. The immaculately dressed, unbuttoned Frenchman is the only manager to have won the tournament with two different nations, having led underdogs Zambia to improbable success in 2012 before repeating the feat three years later with Ivory Coast. 


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Mauro Icardi Offered €7m Napoli Pay Packet as Antonio Conte Reiterates He Has No Inter Future

Napoli’s purported interest in Inter striker Mauro Icardi is now ‘concrete’ after the Neapolitans offered him a €7m pay packet at the Stadio San Paolo.

Icardi, who has been at Inter since leaving Sampdoria in 2013 for around €13m, has scored 124 goals in 219 appearances in his tenure, but was recently left out of the recent pre-season tour to Asia to allow him to find a new club.

Mauro Icardi

And, according to Calciomercato, it is I Partenopei who have taken up the mantle to sign Icardi, with the club engaging in formal talks with his entourage over the fine print of a potential contract. 

It is understood that their latest offer was in the region of €7m-a-year and, while there is room for negotiation, the inclusion of a number of additional bonuses could help sway the striker.

While talks have been ongoing with the man himself, Napoli have not spoken to the Nerazzurri since June. Back then, when asked what they would want for the 26-year-old, the Milanese club requested a swap deal involving both Fabian Ruiz and Piotr Zielinski.

Evidently not too keen on this, Carlo Ancelotti and co decided to focus their initial attention on agreeing personal terms in principle with the player, before returning to the negotiating table with their rivals.

That now seems like a smart move, because, in their desperation to get rid of Icardi and sign Manchester United’s Romelu Lukaku, the number nine’s valuation has slowly decreased, with the Serie A side now content with a sum ‘well below’ €70m.

But while a move is not close to being done, Inter boss Antonio Conte has again reiterated that Icardi has no future in the fashion capital of the world – stating: “He is out of Inter’s project. This is the reality in this moment.”

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Frustrated Antonio Conte Admits He Wants to Sign Romelu Lukaku as Inter Question Value of Deal

?Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku is in danger of seeing his proposed summer transfer to Inter fall apart, much to the annoyance of head coach Antonio Conte.

Inter’s pursuit of Lukaku so far this summer has been fairly public, but consistent failure to put forward an offer that United would find acceptable has seen no progress made.

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Sky Sports reported earlier this week that Inter are ready to offer Lukaku a five-year contract worth a total of £41m in wages – equivalent of around £160,000-per-week, but Inter’s best offer to United totalled £63m plus add-ons – well short of the Red Devils’ £79m asking price.

That report noted that Inter are ‘reluctant’ to pay so much and ‘would prefer to find some middle ground’. And yet United have continued to stand firm.

Now, an update on the situation from The Sun takes it further still and alleges that Inter are ‘getting cold feet’ about paying £75m, or more, for Lukaku. As a result, the Nerazzurri are said to have ‘suddenly started to question if he is worth the money’.


Understandably, Conte is described as ‘angry’ and ‘fuming’. As well as failing to land Lukaku, Inter officials also haven’t managed to deliver the new boss Roma striker Edin Dzeko, and yet pre-season preparations are well underway. On top of that, Mauro Icardi and Radja Nainggolan, both identified as surplus to requirements by Conte, appear no closer to leaving the club.

Speaking to press in Singapore, Conte described himself as ‘frustrated’ by the situation, stating his desire to sign Lukaku but acknowledging that he remains a United player.

“I think frustrated is a big word,” Conte lamented. “He is a United player. That is the reality. You know I like this player. I tried to bring him in Chelsea. Today Lukaku is a United player. At this moment we are talking about a player from another club. I consider him an important player for us to have a good improvement. At the same time, there is a market, we know our situation.”

The Sun makes the point that by threatening to walk away, Inter may be trying to call United’s bluff so that the Old Trafford club are obliged to lower their valuation of Lukaku.

The fact that Inter have so far failed to meet an asking price that has been set for weeks is a hint that they may not have the available funds to go any higher.

But with Lukaku still an asset after scoring a number of goals as a substitute in the second half of last season after losing his starting place to Marcus Rashford, it remains to be seen whether United will take the bait. At this point, it seems unlikely.

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The Inter media are so desperate to see a deal for Lukaku it was even alleged this week that United have made a £63m bid for Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as a replacement. The website FC Inter News was the rather suspect source of that rumour.

News that won’t help the ongoing speculation surrounding Lukaku is his confirmed absence from the pre-season friendly between United and Inter in Singapore. The 26-year-old has been nursing a minor injury, which already forced him to sit out the recent 4-0 win over Leeds, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has explained: “He’s not fit so he won’t be available.”

However, David de Gea and Luke Shaw, who missed the Leeds game through illness and injury respectively, are both expected to play some part against Inter this weekend.

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Nicolas Pepe: Lille Owner Talks Up Supposed Liverpool Interest as Arsenal & Inter Make ‘Firm Bids’

Lille’s owner and president has claimed that Liverpool have been in contact with Nicolas Pepe, although no bid has been made, while reports in France suggest the winger is weighing offers from several clubs.

One of this summer’s hottest transfer targets after scoring 22 goals and registering 11 assists in Ligue 1 last season, 24-year-old Pepe has been linked with the great and good of European football this summer.

Lille value Pépé at €80m, including add-ons, and are fully intent on making the most profit possible if their star player is to depart this summer.

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According to L’Equipe (via GFFN), Lille has now received ‘firm bids’ from the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool and Inter, while Napoli and Atletico Madrid remain in the running.

However, the truth to those claims is up for debate. Despite L’Equipe’s report suggesting a deal could be completed soon, Lille’s owner ??and president Gérard Lopez seemed to dismiss the notion that Liverpool, at least, have put any bid on the table.

He told ?RMC Sport, relating to the Reds’ interest: I know there have been discussions with the player, not with us as a club”.

While Liverpool may well have been in touch with Pepe and his representatives, the talk in England suggests a summer move from Anfield is highly unlikely.

Jurgen Klopp has continued to maintain that ?no major investment into the playing squad will be made this summer, while in-the-know journalists maintain the Reds have no interest in the Ivorian or would only make a bid if one of their current front three were to depart. 

This fuels suspicion that Lopez is using the French press to feign interest from the European champions as a means to raise the price for Pépé, in an attempt to fully capitalise on the winger’s inevitable departure from the club.

Relating to the other two named clubs in L’Equipe’s report, ?Inter’s main summer target seems to be Romelu Lukaku as Antonio Conte’s new side look to walk the tightrope that is Financial Fair Play. The infamously cash-strapped Arsenal, on the other hand, may be priced out of a deal as they look for ?cheaper targets like Everton Soares.

However, a possible transfer to Merseyside is still on the table for Pépé, with ?Everton apparently showing ?significant interest in acquiring the player previously.

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Manchester United vs Inter Preview: Where to Watch, Live Stream, Kick Off Time & Team News

Manchester United will begin their International Champions Cup campaign against Inter on Saturday at the Singapore National Stadium, following victories in their first two pre-season fixtures – and it’s set to be an exciting matchup. 

The clash will be the first time the two sides have met since United beat Walter Mazzarri’s Inter on penalties in the International Champions Cup in 2014. United come into the game having used 23 players in both of their first two pre-season matches, whereas Inter have only played the one fixture so far.  

Despite it being a pre-season fixture, there is much anticipation as sub-plots have begun to form. The saga surrounding Romelu Lukaku’s reported desire to leave Manchester United for Inter only adds to the excitement. 

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Check out 90min’s preview of the upcoming International Champions Cup fixture below. 


Where to Watch

?When Is Kick Off? ?Saturday 20 July
?What Time Is Kick Off? ?12:30 (BST)
Where Is it Played?? ?Singapore National Stadium                   
?TV Channel/Live Stream?      ?MUTV
?Referee?  ?TBC

Team News

The Red Devils are expected to welcome back ?David de Gea, after he missed the Leeds triumph through illness. Luke Shaw picked up a knock in the Reds’ victory over Perth Glory, but returned to training and is expected to be available for the upcoming match. ?Lukaku is believed to have a knock and was left out completely against Leeds once again, however ?rumours continue to persist regarding a transfer to Inter. 

Nemanja Matic lasted just 33 minutes against Leeds before being taken off, suggesting his fitness is not quite up to scratch as of yet. Solskjaer has used 23 players in both of his first two pre-season matches, so the competition is high in the squad. 

Inter, meanwhile, have named a 27-man squad for their trip to Asia, including new signing Nicolo Barella.


The Italian was granted a work permit and may play a role. Elsewhere, Radja Nainggolan has been offered another chance, after being excluded from tactical drills in Lugano along with Mauro Icardi. Icardi has not made the squad however, as his future remains up in the air. 

Inter are without Lautaro Martinez as well, meaning their attacking options are limited. Samuele Longo may not feature as his future is being discussed, but Matteo Politano has overcome a thigh strain and is expected to play some part in their upcoming fixtures. Diego Godin, Matias Vecino and George Puscas will join up with the squad soon, but aren’t available here.


Predicted Lineups

?Manchester United De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Tuanzebe, Lindelof, Shaw; McTominay, Pogba; Martial, Lingard, Greenwood; Rashford.
?Inter  ?Handanovic; D’Ambrosio, De Vrij, Skriniar; Perisic, Sensi, Valero, Barella, Candreva; Esposito, Colidio.

Head to Head Record

The two clubs have only competitively faced each other four times, and United boast the better record. These four meetings were both two-legged Champions League ties. 

The first meeting was in the 1998/99 season, where United beat I Nerazzurri on their way to claiming the treble. The second re-match came in 2009 as the Red Devils once again swept aside the Italian side over two legs. 

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The most recent fixture between the two sides came in the International Champions Cup back in 2014. The two sides were level at the end of the 90 minutes, before ?United took it on penalties. 


Recent Form

New manager Antonio Conte will be hoping to close the gap on ?Juventus and make a push for the Serie A title next season. The club finished fourth last time out, marginally pipping Milan to the final Champions League qualification space. 

I Nerazzurri won their first match of pre-season in Switzerland – a 2-1 victory of Lugano on 14 July in the Casinò Lugano Cup. 

Anthony Martial,Jesse Lingard,Ashley Young

On the other hand, United will be hoping to crack the top four next season. The Red Devils kicked off their pre-season with a 2-0 victory against Perth Glory, before ?easing past bitter rivals Leeds in Australia. 

They will now travel to Singapore as Solskjaer’s men look to gain some invaluable minutes and momentum heading into the new season.

Here’s a look at how both clubs have fared in their previous five matches. 

?Manchester United  Inter ?
?Manchester United 4-0 Leeds United (17/7) ?Lugano 1-2 Inter (14/7) 
?Perth Glory 0-2 Manchester United (13/7)  ?Inter 2-1 Empoli (26/5)
?Manchester United 0-2 Cardiff City (12/5)           ?Napoli 4-1 Inter (19/5)
?Huddersfield 1-1 Manchester United (5/5)      ?Inter 2-0 Chievo (13/5)
?Manchester United 1-1 Chelsea (28/4) ?Udinese 0-0 Inter (4/5)                 


Prediction

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United come into the game with great confidence, having swept aside Leeds in fine fashion. Equally, Inter will take heart from their first pre-season match in Switzerland, and will be hoping to push on and improve on that performance.  

Mason Greenwood

It is expected to be a tight match, but United have one more game under their belt and appear to be showing good early form. Additionally, the exclusion of Icardi and the unavailability of Martinez leaves Conte with few attacking options. For these reasons, the Red Devils will be expected to take this one. 

Prediction: Manchester United 2-1 Inter

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