Kick-off for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations is days away. June 21 will see the CAF tournament commence, with some of the biggest names from the continent set to do battle for the title.
Many stars who ply their trade in Europe have reported for international duty. This begs the question: who will walk away with the Golden Boot once a champion has been crowned and the tournament comes to an end.
Two names immediately come to mind. They are the Liverpool duo that led the Reds to a remarkable Champions League title, tearing defenses apart and setting records in the Premier League despite missing out on the trophy. They are none other than Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane.
The Anfield aces enjoyed two different seasons. For the Egyptian King, his 2018/19 campaign was all about proving his doubters wrong. Before even kicking a ball, many began debating whether the former Roma ace who wreaked havoc in England in his debut campaign was merely a one-season wonder that could not repeat his heroics.
And there were spells in which his critics appeared correct. He went eight straight games without scoring from February to early April. Nonetheless, the 27-year-old still managed to score 22 times in the Premier League season, 10 fewer goals than his remarkable debut campaign, but it was enough to see him retain the Golden Boot crown. He shared with two men, one of which was his team-mate Sadio Mane, who is a candidate to finish as top scorer in the upcoming AFCON edition.
Mane and Salah scored a combined 44 goals in the Premier League last season
Last term, the Senegalese attacker looked like a man on a mission, a player ready to step out from under Salah's shadow. The Egyptian contributed to 30 goals in the Premier League while his team-mate only managed 23, but scoring 22 times was a huge improvement on his goal tally of 10 from the season prior to that. During Mo's struggles, the former Southampton attacker was the man Klopp turned to.
Mane given a hero's welcome upon reporting for international duty due to his European success
Of course, there will be several other men vying for the Golden Boot. Nicolas Pepe from Lille and Ivory Coast has a good claim after scoring 22 times and assisting 11 en route to his club's second-place finish in Ligue 1. Odion Ighalo of Nigeria, who finished as top scorer in the qualifying round, and Hakim Ziyech of Morocco, who was named Ajax's Player of the Season thanks to his 21 goals and 24 assists across all competitions, will give Salah and Mane a run for their money.
And then there is Riyad Mahrez, the talented winger struggling to nail a starting position at Man City but a talent nonetheless. With so many skilled players from Africa set to take center stage at AFCON 2019, the Golden Boot race promises to excite like never before.