There’s still plenty at stake this season with the Champions League final and EURO 2016 to look forward to.
On the other side of the Atlantic the Copa America will be celebrated on Uncle Sam’s turf with a special centenary edition whilst in Africa a crucial round of African Cup of Nations qualifiers will wrap up the season.
Then, after all the drama and glory a brief ‘footballistic’ repose will ensue – a no-man’s-land interlude between an old and a new season before the football carousel moves on again, relentlessly steamrolling all other sports in another year of renewed rivalries and competition.
That little pause in between though will generate banter, gossip and rumours about the potential movers and shakers of the next season. As ever, a season is a natural undulation of ups and downs, rarely a consistent passage: in the past twelve months some African players truly excelled and others deeply disappointed. During this summer’s transfer window there will be plenty of movement.
At Manchester City this season’s demise of Yaya Touré was a painful procession. At times the lanky Ivorian was lethargic, at times indifferent, highlighting his fractious relationship with both his club and Argentine coach Manuel Pellegrini. His recent underwhelming, if not insipid, performance against Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-finals reflected his deteriorating form. Touré neither marked nor attacked.
The exit door is looming large for Touré, with the imminent arrival of superstar coach Pep Guardiola fueling that speculation. The pair fell out at FC Barcelona when the Spanish high priest of the modern game sacrificed the Ivorian in his midfield and alienated Touré at the club.
Touré no longer has a devastating midfield presence.
His agent Dimitri Seluk blasted City’s appointment of Guardiola. Touré no longer has a devastating midfield presence and is dropping deeper to adjust to his diminished athleticism. European clubs – Inter Milan among others – will be wary but Touré still remains a prized asset.
South African Steven Pienaar is another midfielder set to leave the Premier League. Everton’s 2015/16 malaise has been profound, languishing in the bottom-half of the Premier League table due to an overall lack of cohesion and a ponderous defense.
At the age of 34, Pienaar’s contract runs out this season.
Pienaar, once the Rainbow Nation’s boy wonder, has become a peripheral figure, featuring in just four league games, each time as a substitute.
At the age of 34, Pienaar’s contract runs out this season. Valued at just EU€1.5 million by Transfermarkt, he looks homebound with his first club Ajax Cape Town, Soweto giants Orlando Pirates and Johannesburg’s Kaizer Chiefs all vying for his signature.
Algerian winger Riyad Mahrez and Nigerian striker Odion Ighalo are at the other end of the Premier League spectrum. Mahrez was a protagonist in Leicester City’s dreamy title campaign of thrilling defiance. He was a neat proponent of coach Claudio Ranieri’s balanced team unit, linking up effortlessly with his partner-in-crime striker Jamie Vardy.
But ‘Tinkerman’ Ranieri wants to keep his stars together for next season and Champions League participation, a consequence of their title success, must be key for that aim. Mahrez, currently valued at €20 million by Transfermarkt, is much sought after. There is nifty elegance to Mahrez – a ‘Mahrezness,’ consisting of a dainty pace, agile footwork and goalscoring powers.
Can Mahrez truly compete with the world’s best players?
Spanish giants Real Madrid and FC Barcelona have reportedly expressed interest in Africa’s first Premier League Player of the Year but as with much of his club’s past season, a move would be questioned… Is heading to Spain wise? And can Mahrez truly compete with the world’s best players?
At Watford, Odion Ighalo has blossomed into a mature striker after a difficult first season at the London-based club. The deeply religious journeyman – he has played for Udinese, Lyn Oslo, Granada and Cesena – is a natural fit for the Premier League.
He wants a move away from Watford.
He combines power, pace and sound technique, has netted 15 goals and provided three assists for Watford in the Premier League so far during the 2015/16 season.
His prolificacy has attracted interest from both Atletico Madrid and Chinese clubs, but Ighalo has repeatedly expressed his desire to stay in the Premier League. He does want a move away from Watford: under Spanish coach Quique Sánchez Flores, the Hornets topped the table momentarily before Christmas but then faltered and, ultimately, faded.
Across the channel, Africa’s leading light Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is certain to leave the Bundesliga after a season of majestic proportions with Borussia Dortmund. The number 17 played 47 games in total, scored an astounding 39 goals and gave 12 assists – the stats of clinical and classy striker.
His country will host the African Cup of Nations.
Aubameyang’s current market value is €45 million, according to Transfermarket, allowing only major clubs with wealthy bread masters to acquire his services. Yet he will consider his future carefully – next season represents a seminal moment for the Gabonese as his country will host the African Cup of Nations. He will seek to shine at the continent’s flagship tournament. That will make his next move all the more important.