After a bit of lull following what was one of the most exciting World Cup, the premier league football season has opened in Europe and the game fever has gripped fans across Africa. Everyone is updating their fantasy football and gaining points. AFKInsider looks at ten upcoming African pro players in Europe to watch this season.
Nineteen years after Rabah Madjer helped FC Porto to the very summit of European football, Portugal’s most successful club have signed another Algerian attacking midfielder — Yacine Brahimi. The former Clairefontaine graduate has inherited Madjer’s mythical #8 shirt, and is now ready to make his name in Portugal.
During his time at Granada, Brahimi led the Spanish Liga in dribbling, completing more total dribbles than Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, and Neymar. Stationed on the left wing, or behind the striker, Brahimi should find similar success at his new club.
Many in the footballing world questioned Abdelaziz Barrada’s ambition after he signed for Emirati club, Al Jazira, in 2013. But after spending a solitary year in the Arabian Gulf, the midfield maestro has signed with Olympque de Marseille for 10 million euros.
Equipped with a velvet right peg, Barrada has mastered the art of striking the ball. His long-range passing and shooting are second to none. The 25 year-old also has enough skill to create his own operating space. The former Paris Saint-Germain academician will take over the club’s creative responsibilities following the departure of Mathieu Valbuena and he is more than competent enough to cope.
It remains a small miracle that Sadio Mané is still playing his football in Austria. The Senegalese striker was linked to a whole host of German clubs over the holidays. Leverkusen, Dortmund, and Hoffenheim were but a few of the clubs inquiring about his services, but a move did not materialize, as Red Bull Salzburg demanded a steep 20 million euros for a transfer.
A quick glance at his goalscoring record explains the interest in Mané. The 22 year-old has notched an impressive 31 goals in 62 matches. His breakaway pace and mesmerizing trickery are a handful for any defender and it seems only a matter of time before Mané is playing in a top European league.
A bona fide box-to-box midfielder of eras past, Prince Oniangué is perhaps the least appreciated player in this slideshow. ‘Choco’, as he is affectionately known, had an immense 2013/14 with Stade de Reims bagging 10 goals in 35 matches.
The Congolese stalwart has an indefatigable set of lungs and a lethal repertoire. Oniangué is a danger in the air and also very accurate shooting outside the box. The goals have not shored up for Choco, who has looked to pick up where he left, already bagging a goal against Paris Saint-Germain on opening night.
No one expected Riyad Mahrez to make the impact he did after signing with Leicester City last January. The Algerian international stepped into a side that was already well on it way to promotion. Breaking into such a well-drilled side was tough enough and it’s a testament to Mahrez’s ability that he quickly became one of Leicester’s best players.
Comfortable on either wing, the Sarcelles native uses his speed to skip past defenders, drawing comparison to Real Madrid’s Angel Di Maria. After playing in the World Cup for Algeria, Mahrez now faces a new challenge – the Premier in all its splendour, and it will be fascinating to see how he adapts.
Playing against full-fledged senior players is not uncharted territory for Bertrand Traoré who’s been capped with Burkina Faso since the age of 16. Chelsea purchased his services and have continually loaned him as he accrued match experience. Now 18 years of age, Traore seems ready to shed his tag of ‘role player’ and assume his superstar potential.
Traoré joins Chelsea hopefuls Josh McEachran and Wallace at Dutch club Vitesse Arnhem, where the open, high-scoring tempo of the Eredivisie should facilitate a healthy progression.
Though touted to arrive in North London for most of the summer, Serge Aurier has decided to sign with Paris Saint-Germain. Arsenal were interested, but prioritized the experience of Mathieu Debuchy to the raw, buccaneering Ivorian fullback.
Notwithstanding, Aurier is ready to impress in the capital after performing superbly at the World Cup. He already knows the Ligue 1 well, having spent five full seasons at Toulouse. Surrounded by such an embarrassment of riches, however, the 21-year old should markedly improve.
Sporting Club de Portugal are just one of several clubs in Portugal investing in Egypt’s new crop of superstars. Ramy Rabia is the cream of that crop, having captained Egypt U20s to a gold medal in the African Youth Championship in 2013.
The 21 year-old central defender hails from the famed Al Ahly academy and has been recruited to mitigate the blow of selling Eric Dier to Tottenham Hotspur. It is to be seen if Rabia will sit as a destroyer in midfield or marshal matters in the heart of defence.
After spending almost eight years in Belgium, Cheikhou Kouyaté has finally fulfilled his dream of playing in the Premier League. Kouyaté has taken to the Premier League swimmingly, impressing in his debut versus Tottenham Hotspur. He chipped in with 3 tackles and 4 interceptions and completed 96% of his passes against Spurs. Big Sam Allardyce’s physical philosophy seems to suit the Senegalese utility man, who plays in conservative midfield positions and all across defence.
Like former teammate Serge Aurier, Aymen Abdennour spent several seasons impressing at Toulouse before moving to a Ligue 1 powerhouse. For the Tunisian veteran, Monaco was the destination.
Comfortable in various tactical schemes, Abdennour has the potential to be Monaco’s best defender this year. His sheer physical strength and intelligent reading of the game should see him adapt to the UEFA Champions League seamlessly. It will be the first time he disputes this most prestigious of tournaments in his career.