- AFCON has become a global event that turns heads well beyond the African continent, but some top Nigerian players have never won the AFCON trophy
- During his playing days, Nwankwo Kanu won one UEFA Champions League title, three Dutch Eredivisie titles, and others but didn't get to win the AFCON trophy
- Ahead of the AFCON finals, Legit.ng has gathered a list of other African players who never won
Legit.ng journalist Esther Odili has over two years of experience covering political parties and movements.
The African Cup of Nations (AFCON) remains the biggest trophy an African footballer could win on the continent.
However, there are African football greats whose names would gather a crowd of people anywhere on the soil, but the AFCON remained elusive on their incredible medal haul, despite having an impressive portfolio before retirement.
This article presents the list of football legends who didn’t win the AFCON, despite their stellar performances for their club sides and respective national teams.
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1. Nwankwo Kanu
He is one of the most fortunate, intelligent and brilliant footballers that came out of the continent and his success in Nigerian football and around the world in clubs like Ajax, Inter Milan and Arsenal cannot be overemphasised.
However, he could only hope to add the African Cup of Nations trophy to his collection after reaching the final in 2000 with Nigeria but lost via penalty shootouts to Cameroon.
2. Didier Drogba
As reported by The Nation, Didier Drogba is undoubtedly regarded as one of the best African strikers of all time.
He had a splendid career in Chelsea, where he won many titles but couldn’t replicate the feat with his country side Ivory Coast as he reached the finals of AFCON twice (2006, 2012) but lost both on penalties.
It was a sad reality as Ivory Coast won the prestigious trophy a year after Drogba's retirement.
3. El – Hadji Diouf
El Hadji Ousseynou Diouf is a Senegalese former professional footballer. Throughout his career, Diouf played as a winger or a forward.
He was a crucial force for the Senegalese national team in the early 2000s and led them to reach the quarterfinals of the 2002 FIFA World Cup.
However, it wasn’t a good tale in AFCON as Diouf only reached the AFCON 2002 final and lost to Cameroon.
4. Micheal Essien
Michael Kojo Essien is a Ghanaian former professional footballer who played as a midfielder and is currently a member of the Danish Superliga club.
Had injuries not so undermined the latter stages of the Bison’s career, perhaps he could have helped the Black Stars over the line at the Nations Cup and transformed one of their near misses into a title success.
While he did represent Ghana at two World Cups—in 2006 and 2014—injuries cost him the chance to feature in their quarter-final run in 2010.
He was also capped for the Ghana national team more than 50 times.
Growing to become a legend in Chelsea and winning awards with the English side, Essien would have loved to add an AFCON trophy to his remarkable career but lost to Egypt in the 2010 finals.
5. George Weah
George Weah’s achievements in football are unmatchable among African players, the biggest off is winning the greatest individual award, The Ballon d’Or.
Ever since Arsene Wenger unearthed him in 1988, George Weah was considered the prototype of the modern striker.
However, he was unable to bring this prowess to his home country as he could only lead Liberia to qualify for the African Cup of Nations in 1996 and 2002. On both occasions, they were eliminated in the group stage. Weah is considered one of the best players to have never played in the World Cup.
6. Asamoah Gyan
Asamoah Gyan, known for his goal-scoring abilities and records in multiple World Cup competitions for Ghana, was one to look out for.
However his story in AFCON took a different turn as he reached the finals twice with Ghana in 2010 and 2015 but couldn’t savour victory in both encounters.
7. Emmanuel Adebayor
Emmanuel Adebayor is known for his blistering moments in the Premier League, especially with Arsenal and Manchester City, and his legendary move in Togo’s football.
He was the 2008 African Player of the Year but couldn’t lead Togo to an AFCON glory. The closest he came was the quarterfinals in 2013.
8. Frederick Kanoute
Frederick Kanoute is another Premier League player, who also had a great spell at Sevilla and was a key player for Mali.
With his best AFCON performance at the 2024 competition where he led his country to the semi-finals, he was awarded African Footballer of the Year in 2007.
AFCON 2023: European players of Nigerian origin cheer Super Eagles
Meanwhile, Legit.ng reported that some European players of Nigerian heritage are rooting for the Super Eagles to win the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) 2023.
Several of the players of Nigerian extraction took to social media to express delight with the Super Eagles over their victory against the Bafana Bafana of South Africa in the AFCON 2023 semifinal match on Wednesday, February 7.
England players like Fikayo Tomori (AC Milan), Tammy Abraham (AS Roma), Dominic Solanke (Bournemouth), and Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), all could not hide their satisfaction with the Super Eagles' progress.
Super Eagles to get N9 billion for AFCON win
In another development, Legit.ng reported earlier that the winner of the AFCON 2023 will receive $7 million (about N9 billion).
This is according to a statement published on the website of the Confederation of Africa Football (CAF).
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