An interesting stat, when it comes to the top scorers in AFCON history, is that every player in the top 10 is retired. Leading the way in the list is Samuel Eto’o – the Cameroonian scored 18 goals in his 29 games in the competition. That’s an impressive total, but just behind him, Laurent Pokou’s record is arguably even better: the Cote d’Ivoire legend scored 14 goals in just 13 games.
Looking back, the records are certainly stacked in favor of these icons. Looking at the caliber of the talent available, is it likely that anyone could ever rise up to surpass Eto’o’s total?
Some Top Players Never Even Came Close to Matching the Record
Over the last few decades, African football has come on in huge strides. The likes of Drogba, Jay-Jay Okocha, Yaya Toure, and Sadio Mane have won accolades in the form of Premier League and Champions League titles.
However, none of these players have even come close to Eto’s record.
Mohamed Salah remains one of the most feared strikers in the Premier League. At the time of writing, he has seven goals in 19 AFCON appearances. This puts him level with Roger Milla. Injury cut short the Egyptian’s tournament in 2024 and it now seems unlikely he’ll ever match Eto’s AFCON scoring record. Nonetheless, Salah could be back as early as February and is currently the second favorite for the EPL Golden Boot with Premier Bet Mozambique at 3.1/1.
Andre Ayew is the Closest Current Player
This might come as a surprise, but with 10 tournament goals, Ayew has more than any other player currently playing. Sadio Mane is just one behind and could well move ahead of the Ghanaian soon.
However, both are over 30 and neither is likely to double their tally. So, could it be that Samuel Eto’o holds onto his crown for the foreseeable future?
One Player Stands Out as Having Potential
Some of the biggest stars in African football have failed to beat the record. But Victor Osimhen could be the man to do it. His goal in Nigeria’s draw with Equatorial Guinea was his first in the finals of the competition.
His record for Nigeria is 21 goals in 30 games. This places him joint third in his national team’s goalscoring records. At 25 years old, the Napoli striker has the potential to play in as many as four or five more AFCONs.
As things stand, he’s currently a long way off the exploits of Samuel Eto’o. But Osimhen has time and a strong goalscoring record on his side. He could easily play upwards of 20 more AFCON games throughout the rest of his career, and shouldn’t yet be at his peak. Ultimately, Victor Osimhen has a real chance of finally challenging Eto’o for the title of leading AFCON goal scorer.
Why Have So Many Failed?
There’s no simple answer to this question. But Samuel Eto’o was one of the pioneers of African football. He played in Europe’s top leagues at a time when African football, in general, wasn’t at the same standard it’s renowned for today.
He was a great player, but he was a cut above the opposition. These days, African football is of higher quality – as shown by the records of players like Salah.