Who Are African Football's Answers to Messi?

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Who Are African Football's Answers to Messi?
Francis Bompard/Getty Images

This article chronicles some of the African players considered to have been the continent’s answers to football’s demi-deity Lionel Messi.

Once upon a time, you couldn’t move for young hopefuls belaboured with a moniker likening them to Messi’s predecessor Diego Maradona.

Stars like Javier Saviola, Pablo Aimar and Ariel Ortega never managed to emulate the former Albicelestes captain. Ali Karimi, “The Asian Maradona,” and Jay-Jay Okocha were national heroes but never left the indelible mark on the game that they perhaps ought to have done.

Today, Messi is the inspiration, replacing Maradona as the icon to millions—in Argentina and beyond.

Naturally, a whole swathe of youngsters worldwide wear and have worn “the New Messi” tag. Among these hopefuls are a collection of African players who have been likened to the Barcelona superstar to varying degrees of resemblance. Arsenal flop Gervinho, for example, wore the moniker earlier in his career before inconsistency made a mockery of the comparison.

The coming slides profile some of the continent’s youngsters to have worn the “Messi” tag.

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