The tournament kicks off this weekend as Morocco, Nigeria, Egypt, Senegal, and many other nations compete to be crowned the champions of Africa.

The Africa Cup of Nations is upon us, with this tournament — initially scheduled for 2023 but eventually delayed until January 2024 due to the harsh weather conditions — set to kick off this weekend.

Some of the hottest and most in-form players on the planet have thus departed their clubs to represent their national teams in a bid to secure continental glory. This includes players from the Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, Ligue 1, and even the growing Saudi Pro League, which has become home to several household names.

And while the continuation of those aforementioned leagues will affect AFCON's viewership potential, the competition will be blessed with several talented players that fans should relish watching. In this piece, we take a look at the must-watch footballers at this year's Africa Cup of Nations.

However, before that, let's get some key facts out of the way first.

When does AFCON take place?

The competition kicks off on Saturday, January 13. Hosts Ivory Coast get things underway with the opening game, taking on Guinea-Bissau at 3 p.m. ET / 2 p.m. CT / 12 p.m. PT

For fans in Africa, the opening game kicks off at 23:00 Eastern Africa Time / 22:00 Central Africa Time / 21:00 West Africa Time / 20:00 GMT / 19:00 Cape Verde Time.

The Africa Cup of Nations final, meanwhile is scheduled for February 11, 2024. Likewise, the curtain closer kicks off at 3 p.m. ET / 2 p.m. CT / 12 p.m. PT. For fans in Africa, the final commences at 23:00 Eastern Africa Time / 22:00 Central Africa Time / 21:00 West Africa Time / 20:00 GMT / 19:00 Cape Verde Time.

Where can I watch AFCON 2023 games live on TV or stream?

BeIN Sports holds the U.S. broadcasting rights for the Africa Cup of Nations and will televise the games to fans via beIN Sports USA and Spanish-language channel beIN SPORTS en Español. Additionally, beIN SPORTS CONNECT is the go-to option for streaming the tournament live. Furthermore, beIN Sports USA streams are also available via fuboTV, Sling TV, and Fanatiz

For more info on when and where to watch the Africa Cup of Nations, please check our detailed broadcast guide.

Now, without further ado, let's take a look at the top players to watch at AFCON 2023.

Mohamed Salah

Where else would we have started? Mohamed Salah is arguably the most popular and most highly-rated African player in the world and is regarded as a Premier League legend by many. However, at the age of 31, the Liverpool star is yet to lead Egypt to glory, with his best achievements being two runners-up finishes in the 2017 and 2021 AFCON tournaments. The weight of his entire country will be on his shoulders.

Victor Osimhen

Last season, Osimhen finished as Serie A's top scorer and guided his club Napoli to their first Scudetto in 33 years. He was also named the African Player of the Year for 2023 and will want to top a fantastic 12 months by leading Nigeria to continental glory. The Super Eagles are stacked with quality in attack but he is the crème de la crème of what could be a golden generation.

Mohammed Kudus

If Mohamed Salah is the most highly-rated African player in the Premier League, second place undoubtedly goes to Mohammed Kudus, who has hit the ground running at West Ham since joining from Ajax over the summer. The 23-year-old has 13 goals and two assists this season across both Ajax and West Ham and will be a key player for the Black Stars.

Ousmane Diomande

Ivory Coast are the hosts and will want to lift this trophy for the first time since 2015. The Elephants boast a handful of talented young players, including 19-year-old RB Salzburg forward Karim Konate. However, our pick for this list is Ousmane Diomande, the talented Sporting CP center-back who is attracting attention from Europe's biggest clubs. At only 20 years old, the defender has been nothing short of a revelation since joining the Portuguese giants last January. As a result, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United, and Real Madrid are all reportedly eyeing the center-back. A standout AFCON campaign might just convince one of those European giants to trigger his hefty  €80M release clause.

Yves Bissouma

Mali are considered one of the dark horses for the trophy, and for them to go far, their players will need to perform. Here is where Yves Bissouma enters the conversation. The Tottenham midfielder has been nothing short of impressive this season under Spurs' new head coach Ange Postecoglou and will look to marshal his nation's midfield in their battle with Namibia, South Africa, and Tunisia to make it out of Groupe E.

Sadio Mane

Senegal are the reigning champions and despite his departure from Europe for Saudi Pro League side Al Nassr, Sadio Mane remains the key man for the Lions of Teranga. He scored the decisive penalty in the 2021 AFCON final over Egypt and repeated this feat a month later to send his nation to the 2022 FIFA World Cup — once again, at the expense of Mohamed Salah's Egypt. The expectation will be on the 31-year-old to lead his country's title defense.

Serhou Guirassy

And finally, we have Serhou Guirassy, a name who has enjoyed a meteoric rise this season thanks to his eye-catching exploits with Stuttgart. The 27-year-old has scored 17 times in 14 appearances for his Bundesliga side and sits only behind Harry Kane in the Golden Boot race. Can he replicate this form for the Guinea national team? After being grouped alongside Senegal, Cameroon, and the Gambia, he must replicate this form if his country wishes to make it out of the group stage.

Honorable mentions

Victor Boniface: The Leverkusen sensation has been tearing it up in the Bundesliga but a groin injury has denied him the opportunity to represent Nigeria.

Thomas Partey: The Arsenal ace remains one of the best midfielders in the Premier League but he is yet to return from his long-term thigh injury

Wilfried Zaha: The former Crystal Palace ace was known for terrorizing Premier League defenders but the current Galatasaray attacker was left out of Ivory Coast's roster.

Omar Marmoush: The Frankfurt striker has done admirably well this season, scoring seven goals in 15 games so far and helping fill the void left by Randal Kolo Muani. However, Marmoush represents Egypt and he cannot help but be in the shadow of the beloved and widely regarded Mohamed Salah.

Andre Onana: Despite a rough start to life at Manchester United and his falling with his national team manager Rigobert Song, the former Inter Milan shot-stopper has worked his way back and will be hoping to remind the world of his quality.