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The seven stars you should watch out for at the Africa Cup of Nations

por Shelli Scarborough (2019-06-27)


The Africa Cup of Nations will get underway on Friday evening when hosts Egypt go up against Zimbabwe in the tournament's opener.

All eyes will be on Mohamed Salah and his Liverpool team-mate Sadio Mane during the biggest AFCON to date... but who could make a name for themselves in the next 29 days?

Here, Sportsmail highlights seven players you should keep an eye out for during the Africa Cup of Nations.

Mohamed Salah and Egypt will get the Africa Cup of Nations underway on Friday evening

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  Nicolas Pepe 
Ivory Coast
One of the more well-known names on the list, Nicolas Pepe was quietly flying under the radar until last season where he impressively scored 23 goals in 41 appearances for Ligue 1 side Lille with only Kylian Mbappe scoring more in the league.

The 24-year-old was voted as Lille's Player of the Season after he helped guide the French side to second in the table while securing Champions League football for them next season.

Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal have all been linked with the £70million-rated winger who will likely cause several problems for opponents when using his speed down the right-hand side.

Nicolas Pepe scored 23 goals in 41 appearances for Lille as they finished second in Ligue 1

The Ivory Coast winger was voted as Lille's Player of the Year for his efforts last season

  Ismaila Sarr 
Senegal 
Along with Pepe, Ismaila Sarr enjoyed his breakout season in Ligue 1 last season.

The 21-year-old managed to reach double figures for both goals and assists for Rennes, scoring 13 times in all competitions.

Arsenal, Newcastle and Watford are all keeping tabs on the winger and the Senegal international will be sure to catch the attention of plenty more clubs with a series of good performances in Egypt. 

Rennes' Senegalese winger Ismaila Sarr enjoyed his breakout season in Ligue 1 last season

  Samuel Chukwueze 
Nigeria 
Having only stepped up to Villarreal's senior side in November, Samuel Chukwueze has done exceptionally well in such a short space of time.

The highly-rated winger, who only turned 20 last month, has drawn comparisons to Holland great Arjen Robben. 

It's easy to see why with Chukwueze possessing a potent left foot and desire to cut inside from out wide.

And it appears to be working for him with the youngster netting 10 goals in 47 appearances last season, which also included Villarreal's first against Barcelona in the thrilling 4-4 draw which required strikes from Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez in the dying seconds to spare the Catalan giants' blushes.

While he is still developing and is a bit raw, the Super Eagles have a real talent on their hands and he will certainly be one to keep an eye on.

Villarreal starlet Samuel Chukwueze will line up for Nigeria at the Africa Cup of Nations

Chukwueze scored Villarreal's first goal in the thrilling 4-4 draw with Barcelona last season

Chukwueze (right) battles against Croatia during the U17 World Cup match in Chile in 2015

  Trezeguet 
Egypt 
While not to be confused with the great French striker, Trezeguet still packs a punch on the opposite flank to Salah for Egypt.

The 24-year-old currently plys his trade in the Turkish Super Lig for Kasimpasa and scored a respectable nine goals in 34 league appearances last season.

Trezeguet also set up his team-mates to score 10 times in all competitions, which earned him a place in the Super Lig's team of the season.

He may not be the flashiest of the players but he is certainly one to watch when he's bursting down the left for camisetas de futbol the tournament's host nation. 

Mahmoud Hassan Trezeguet can cause plenty of problems on opposite flank to Salah for Egypt

Trezeguet chases the ball during the 2018 World Cup while playing for his country in Russia

  Marvelous Nakamba 
Zimbabwe 
While he easily has the best name out of our seven picks, Marvelous Nakamba has often lived up to the adjective for Zimbabwe and Club Brugge. 

The 25-year-old has built up a reputation for being a hard worker and bullish in the centre of the park while his performances for in the Jupiler Pro League have attracted interest from Newcastle, Watford and Premier League returnees Aston Villa.

More impressively in the Champions League, Nakamba helped contain the likes of Borussia Dortmund, Monaco and Atletico Madrid as the Belgian side kept three clean sheets while conceding just four goals in five games.

Let's hope he stays true to his moniker over the next month.

Marvelous Nakamba's performances for Club Brugge has attracted interest from English clubs

Nakamba (right) has a reputation for being a hard worker and bullish in the centre of the park

  Hakim Ziyech 
Morocco
If you tuned in to watch the Champions League last season, then you surely will have heard of Hakim Ziyech.

The 26-year-old was phenomenal in a young and brilliant Ajax side that almost reached the final.

Ziyech scored in both legs to help knock Real Madrid out of the competition while he was crucial to Ajax winning the domestic double.

The Morocco international has been linked with moves to Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham but a good showing at the Africa Cup of Nations will surely see his price-tag skyrocket.

Hakim Ziyech (No 7) is set to be one of Morocco's standout players at the Africa Cup of Nations

Ziyech (right) scored in both legs to help knock Real Madrid out of the Champions League

  Youcef Atal 
Algeria 
Playing under Arsenal legend Patrick Vieira, Youcef Atal has enjoyed a superb breakout season at Nice.

The 23-year-old chipped in with six goals from the right-back position which has caught the attention of Europe's biggest clubs.

Paris Saint-Germain, Atletico, Inter Milan and Spurs are all monitoring his progress and it wouldn't be a surprise if he got a big-money move this summer. 

Youcef Atal has enjoyed a superb breakout season at Nice under manager Patrick Vieira

The 23-year-old Tunisian chipped in with six goals from the right back position last season

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'Salah is now one of the best three players in the world':... Ajax 'want £30m for winger Hakim Ziyech' with Liverpool and... Liverpool bemused by claims made from Guinea manager Paul... 'I put a lot of pressure on them to send him as soon as...
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