Who makes ESPN's African Team of the Decade?
Africa continues to make its mark on football globally, even if its international teams are still yet to get close to winning the FIFA World Cup. African players feature for some of Europe's biggest and best clubs, winning league championships and cup competitions. Ed Dove has assessed the contributions of the continent's brightest stars over the past 10 years to name ESPN's African Team of the Decade.
Comfortably the outstanding African goalkeeper of the past 10 years, Enyeama made the Confederation of African Football's Team of the Year on three occasions (2010, 2013, 2014) and finished third in the ranking for CAF's African Footballer of the Year award in 2014.
For context, this was the first time since Joseph-Antoine Bell in 1989 that a goalkeeper had made the podium.
'The Cat' played an influential role in Nigeria's Africa Cup of Nations success in 2013, and impressed in both the 2010 and the 2013 World Cups -- notably delivering two masterful displays against Lionel Messi as the Super Eagles were twice defeated by Argentina.
In 2015, Enyeama reached a century of appearances for Nigeria -- one of only two players to achieve this feat -- and he could have earned many more had his time at LOSC Lille not been ended prematurely following a dispute between player and management.
Perhaps his crowning achievement of a decade in which he won two Israeli titles was to play 1062 minutes of Ligue 1 action without conceding a goal, going within 114 minutes of breaking the division's record.
Aurier's standing has diminished in recent years following a tricky spell at Tottenham Hotspur, where Aurier has only shown glimpses of his quality.
However, during the middle portion of the decade, he established himself as Africa's top full-back, and one of the best right-backs in the world game.
Aurier was only 22 when he won the Africa Cup of Nations with Ivory Coast in 2015 -- making the Team of the Tournament in the process -- and he established himself as a key man at Toulouse before moving to Paris Saint-Germain in 2014, initially on loan.
In the capital, he won two French titles and three French cups, twice making the Ligue 1 Team of the Year and making CAF's Dream Team on three occasions. He was also a Champions League finalist with Spurs.
Koulibaly has improved tremendously since his arrival at Napoli in 2014, to the point where he is rightly considered among the finest defenders in world football and finished second in the 2019 ESPN 100 ranking for centre-backs.
Admittedly, the Senegal international only won two minor honours -- a Belgian Cup and Italian Super Cup -- during the past decade, but he helped Napoli challenge Juventus at the top of Serie A, and was named in the division's Team of the Year on four occasions.
He also helped the Teranga Lions qualify for the World Cup for the first time in 16 years, and made the Africa Cup of Nations Team of the Tournament as Senegal reached the final earlier this year.
There aren't too many African central defenders who have spent so many of their peak years at major clubs in Europe's big five leagues, with Benatia enjoying more than five seasons with AS Roma, Bayern Munich and Juventus over the heart of the decade.
He clinched both the Bundesliga and the Serie A titles twice, although in terms of individual performances he was one of Europe's finest in his position during the 2013-14 season with Roma.
The Morocco centre-back, who made the CAF Team of the Year on three occasions, also helped the Atlas Lions qualify for four Africa Cup of Nations competitions as well as the 2018 World Cup.
Injuries limited Asamoah's contribution for both club and country over the last 10 years, but he's still enjoyed the kind of success that few African players in history can compete with.
The versatile Ghanaian adapted to a left-sided role at Juventus to win six consecutive Serie A titles between 2013 and 2018, making the division's Team of the Year (alongside Benatia) in 2014.
Despite retiring from international football for a swathe of the decade, he nonetheless played at two World Cups -- reaching the quarterfinals in 2010 -- and made the semifinals of the Nations Cup on three occasions.
Surely Africa's greatest player of the past 10 years, Toure was arguably the continent's top star for every year between 2011 and 2015 -- winning four African Footballer of the Year awards during that period.
He was one of the key protagonists as Manchester City ended their 35-year wait for silverware by winning the 2011 FA Cup -- scoring the only goal in both the semifinal and the final -- and then won the league title a year later.
Toure would win two further league winner's medals at City, having begun the decade with a Spanish title at Barcelona, and he play a key role in establishing the Sky Blues as genuine European giants rather than aspirational heavyweights.
While the midfielder won the Nations Cup in 2015 -- the Elephants' first since 1992 -- his finest season was surely 2013-14, in which he netted a remarkable 20 goals in 35 league outings for Manuel Pellegrini's City.
Seydou Keita, Thomas Partey and Michael Essien were all considered for this spot, but the nod goes to Mikel, who achieved immense success over the past 10 years.
A Nations Cup winner as the centrepiece of Stephen Keshi's Super Eagles team in 2013, Mikel also helped Nigeria to the 2014 and 2018 World Cups, having missed the 2010 edition through injury.
He won bronze at the Afcons of 2010 and 2019, and at the Olympics in 2016, but made up for these near misses with immense success with Chelsea.
Twice he won the Premier League, and he completed a near-clean sweep of club honours with the Champions League and FA Cup in 2012, and the Europa League a year later.
Mikel was a regular figure at Stamford Bridge under several managers, at least until Antonio Conte arrived at the club, and his performances against Barcelona and Bayern Munich en route to the European Cup will live long in the memory.
Mahrez truly burst onto the scene only during the second half of the decade, but his impact has been such that he's earned his spot in our African Team of the Decade.
The winger's primary achievement, of course, was his inspirational role in Leicester City's miraculous Premier League success in 2016, as he scored 17 and contributed 11 assists despite being a relatively unheralded player at the start of the campaign.
His sublime contribution to the Foxes' triumph under Claudio Ranieri earned him the PFA Player of the Year award -- the first African player to win the prize -- as well as both the CAF and BBC PoTY award for 2016.
He didn't secure a move away from the King Power Stadium as soon as he would have liked, but has made up for lost time at Manchester City, with a second Premier League winner's medal as well as the FA Cup, League Cup and Community Shield last term.
There's the sense that the Citizens haven't yet seen the best of their record signing, who was also a Nations Cup winner with Algeria earlier this year.
One of the finest players in the world today, Mane finished fourth in the voting for the 2019 Ballon d'Or, with many -- including Samuel Eto'o -- arguing that he should have clinched the prize for his contributions to a superb year for Liverpool.
The Senegal international shared the Premier League Golden Boot last term and was influential as the Reds reached the final of the Champions League in 2018 before winning it earlier this year.
Mane was a double winner in Austria with Red Bull Salzburg in 2014, subsequently earning a move to Southampton on the back of that success, before establishing himself as a key figure in Jurgen Klopp's title-bound Reds side.
He's made CAF's Team of the Year on three occasions -- with a fourth surely in the offing -- and was in the Afcon Team of the Tournament earlier this year, after firing Senegal to the final.
To date, Mane has been in the 'Top Three' for CAF's Player of The Year award on three occasions, without winning the award, but his exploits in 2019 could ensure that changes in January.
Like Mahrez and Mane, Salah is only a relative 'late-comer' in the decade but he's already done enough to fully justify his spot in our Dream Team.
The Egyptian superstar's truly come to prominence with Liverpool, where he's been influential as the Reds have reached two Champions League finals -- with his penalty deciding the second, against Tottenham.
Records aplenty fell in his maiden season at Anfield, and he notably broke the scoring record for a single EPL season before picking up a share of the Golden Boot last term.
Still only 27, Salah is a two-time African Footballer of the Year, and appears primed to get his hands on a Premier League winner's medal in the coming months.
His excellence isn't just limited to his two-and-a-half seasons with Liverpool, however, as Salah also excelled at AS Roma -- helping them to a club-record points tally in 2017 -- and with the Egyptian national team.
While the Pharaohs fell short in the final of the 2017 Afcon, Salah's inspired displays to ensure their qualification for the 2018 World Cup were among the most iconic achievements by an African player over the past decade.
Auba has been Africa's pre-eminent goal-getter of the past 10 years, outshining the likes of Asamoah Gyan and stepping into the shoes of fading forces Didier Drogba and Eto'o.
He began making headlines at Saint-Etienne, where he scored 16 in the 2011-12 season, and he has scored 13 or more in every league campaign since, through spells with Borussia Dortmund and Arsenal.
His time in Germany ended with 98 league goals in 144 outings, and while Aubameyang never managed to clinch the Bundesliga title, usurping Robert Lewandowski as top scorer in 2017 (with 31 goals) was testament to his consistency.
He's maintained his numbers at Arsenal despite the club's tumult, sharing last season's EPL Golden Boot with 22 goals.