African players had a mixed 2022/23 in Europe’s top five leagues. Top fans of attributes of our players like AS Roma coach Jose Mourinho did not have conclusive stats to convince their sporting directors they should be the go to players in the transfer market. Leicester City’s legion of Africans -Senegal’s Nampalys Mendy, Nigerian Wilfred Ndidi, Ghana’s Daniel Amartey and Zambia’s Patso Daka all ended up relegated. Factor in the reality that African stars will not be available for the Africa Cup of Nations in Ivory Coast between January 13 to February 11 and you get an appreciation why they aren’t a very attractive proposition to big clubs.
It wasn’t always like this. Legendary coach Pep Guardiola’s first signing after he was installed as Barcelona manager in 2008/9 was Malian Seydou Keita who turned out to be a vital cog as Blaugrana immeditely won a treble and Uefa Champions League titles in 2009 and 2011. Ivory Coast midfielder Yaya Toure, famously started the 2009 Champions League final against Manchester United at centre half. Cameroonian Samuel Etoo scored the opening goal on that day.
Incidentally, Serie A was a very good hunting ground for stars born on the continent. Napoli’s Nigerian striker Victor Osimhen and Cameroon midfielder Andre Frank Zambo Anguissa featured prominently as Partenopei won their first Scudetto since Diego Armando Maradona guided them to the second of two Serie A titles in 1990. Senegal’s Boulaye Dia was third in the race for the Capocannonieri, while another Nigerian, Ademola Lookman, and Angolan Mbala Nzola were among the top ten scorers.
Algerian Riyad Mahrez has won five English Premier League titles in six years with Manchester City, and got into double figures for goal involvements as the Cityzens won an unprecedented treble. After being rugby tackled out of the 2018 final, Egyptian ‘Pharaoh’ Mohamed Salah top scored as Liverpool won the 2019 event. Voted Chelsea’s greatest ever player, Ivorian Didier Drogba netted for the Londoners in seven different finals, including an injury time equaliser in the 2012 Champions League final against Bayern Munich.
Reigning African footballer of the year Sadio Mane won the Bundesliga title at the first attempt with Bayern Munich. Ivory Coast midfielder Frank Kessie won the hearts of Blaugrana fans by twice scoring in El Clasico as Barcelona won their first Liga Santander crown since 2019. It was an achievement marched by Morocco’s Achraf Hakimi who is once again attracting interest from Europe’s biggest clubs after helping Paris Saint Germain to Ligue One success.