The delayed 2021 Africa Cup of Nations has not been without drama or controversy this month, with big upsets, highly questionable officiating and some incredible goals.
Manchester City’s Riyad Mahrez apologized on Tuesday for Algeria’s winless exit at the first attempt in a group stage that also saw Ghana clash and a referee who apparently thought a football match only lasts 85 minutes.
In the knockout stages, AFCON 2021 has continued to entertain, with Tunisia eliminating Nigeria, Comoros beating Cameroon very close on their debut in the competition despite having to play with an outfielder in goal, and City youngster Issa Kabore holding on. the nerves in a penalty. firefight to get Burkina Faso through.
On Tuesday, Senegal beat Cape Verde with nine men in a game marred by a disgusting clash of heads between Liverpool’s Sadio Mane and Cape Verdean goalkeeper Vozinha, while Morocco edged Malawi thanks to a brilliant free kick from Paris defender Achraf Hakimi. Saint Germain. , setting up a quarter-final with the Ivory Coast or Egypt.
With Mahrez on holiday for a week after the tournament, City may watch as neutrals bar Kabore’s involvement, but he could have been inadvertently drawn into the discussion from an unlikely source.
The Frenchman took to social media after Hakimi’s beautiful strike to declare: “Achraf Hakimi. The best RB in the world. Good evening guys.”
It is a tweet that is clearly a public message of support for a friend who has just scored one of the most outstanding goals of his career. Mbappé may not have been considering every other right-back in the world before naming Hakimi the best, and at the time, it was a fair reaction to a brilliant goal.
However, if he were to weigh up who might rival Hakimi, he would be referring to his recent meetings with City, when he struggled to get past Kyle Walker on one side and Joao Cancelo on the other. Both are natural right backs at the top of their game and deserve to be in the discussion for the best at their position.
Unfortunately, the recent Fifpro World XI opted for a defense of three in a 3-3-4 formation with many attackers, omitting full-backs and rewarding forwards rather than defenders for their performances. That meant there is no recent global or European poll to refer to when it comes to full-backs, simply opinions like Mbappe’s.
If there was an award for best right-back – which wouldn’t be a surprise if FIFA or UEFA decided to add another set of annual individual awards to the mix – Hakimi could be in the top five, but he’d struggle to top the list. ready.
Apart from the always underrated Walker and flashy Cancelo, Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold deserves to be regarded as a player similar to Hakimi when it comes to his attacking performance and execution of set pieces. The likes of Joshua Kimmich or Benjamin Pavard might also deserve consideration.
Focusing only on City, however, it is a sign of their status in world football that they truly possess two of the best right-backs in the world, but it is a reminder of how often they are overlooked and know that others players would be preferred if they came. to one vote
Just look at the strange obsession with rewarding Jorginho this season, despite not even being Chelsea’s best midfielder. Sometimes the best players are snubbed by the buzzword. Perhaps if Hakimi can lead Morocco to an AFCON title and help PSG win the Champions League, then he can get the recognition Mbappe craves for himself.
However, City know that he would not trade any of his right-backs for anyone.
Walker has been consistently solid for club and country for three or four years now, reaching the latter stages of the Champions League, World Cup and European Championship despite facing stiff competition from within his own teams. Cancelo has shown that he is reinventing the full-back role under Pep Guardiola, and can perform on both sides of defense better than most on one side.
If Hakimi were a City player, he would probably be the third choice at right back.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.