Senegal will host AFCON U-23 2015 (November 28 to December 12) where the three top teams will get a ticket to the 2016 Olympics. The competition attracts a lot of agents and recruiters trying to handpick the next big African star to take to Europe.
Four years ago, Gabon won the tournament in Morocco but nobody in their squad ended up joining a top-level team. Here’s a round-up of 10 players who played at the last AFCON event who have hit success.
During last World Cup, a lot of French-born were called up by Algeria’s coach Vahid Halilhodžić. Aware of their slim chances to play for Les Bleus, they knew it would be their best shot to wear a national team jersey. Born near Paris, Mehdi Abeid was more devoted to his parents’ country, playing for Algeria in 2011 at AFCON U-23.
He had to wait until June 2015 to play with the senior team, the Fennec Foxes. During his four-year contract, Newcastle never gave him a serious chance to shine but he has now joined Panathinaikos Athens in last August.
Coming out of Paris Saint-Germain Academy, Barrada is one of the numerous players who failed to reach the senior team of the soon-to-be best team of France. His trade to Getafe FC in Spain gave him a good first step as a professional.
However since he first signed to current club Olympique de Marseille in August 2014, he’s failed to convince his managers to use him as a starter.
El-Shenawy won the award for the best goalkeeper of 2011 African Youth Championships and since then has earned nearly twenty caps with Egypt’s senior team. The Zamalek player is now dreaming of England and said he had contact with a few teams in the last transfer market.
At 24-years-old, he already showed the qualities required to be the next goalkeeper to keep your eye on in Africa.
Gassama learned the ropes at the Olympique Lyonnais Reserves & Academy but was on the bench when they lost the semi-finals of the 2010 Champions League against Bayern Munich. Lamine then had a free-transfer to Lorient in 2012 where he’s proved himself as a player over three seasons. Now, he has to solve the main issue of Senegal’s national team: the quality of their left and right-back.
Fans of Senegal team Lions de la Téranga would tell you he has a mountain to climb, as he failed to maintain the same level between his club and his performances on African soil.
When he is not playing football, Lopy dedicates his time to his other passion: philosophy. That makes him a different kind of footballer in a generation more tempted by social media. In 2011, he came out of Diambars football academy (like Idrissa ‘Gana’ Gueye and Pape Souaré) launched by Patrick Vieira in Senegal and signed to French team FC Sochaux-Montbéliard.
Unfortunately for him, the team was relegated, he lost his place and also his confidence. Now, he is starting from the bottom with a third-division team, Boulogne-sur-Mer.
Pape Souaré could be the perfect modern left-back being both strong and fast. Sometimes he lacks concentration though and forgets he is a defender and not a winger. He is often called up to play with Senegal but is yet to convince he is the perfect choice for the national team (he’s won five caps for the team).
The former defender of Lille however has already shown he’s not the kind of footballer to give up easily. After playing for LOSC Lille, he’s made it to the Premier League after being signed to Crystal Palace.
André Biyogo Poko is the perfect example of hard-working player. With a crucial goal in the semi-final of AFCON 2011 against Senegal, he was a key part of Gabonese success in Morocco.
But he wasn’t the most outstanding player of the Panthers during the competition. However, he made his own way in Ligue 1 with the Girondins de Bordeaux playing regularly, even if he’s not first choice. Though, André Poko, at the age of 22, needs to be tougher if he hopes to play in a team with higher ambitions.
After Yaya and Kolo Touré or Gervinho, the last Ivorian top player coming out of Ivorian club ASEC Mimosas would have to be Jean-Michaël Séri. In an experimental midfield composed of three players of the same short stature (under 1.68 metres), Jean managed to convince Nice coach to transfer him in to the French Ligue 1 through his display of agile aggressiveness.
His move to France could be quick; his trip to Paços of Ferreira in Portugal may only last one season if he maintains the quality of his performances each weekend.
He may not be the fast or score that many goals, but at 2.03 metres he hasn’t been dominating the pitch. Injuries didn’t help the gentle giant during his years with ambitious Russian club Anzhi Makhachkala or later while he was on loan in Everton after an excellent start. Now, Monaco is giving Traoré a shot to become their top striker. He’s taken on the challenge with open arms since September, scoring crucial goals in both the Ligue 1 and Europa League.
Lacina Traoré was a member of the Ivory Coast’s squad that won AFCON 2015 but he is definitely not the first choice with Wilfried Bony, Gervinho or Max-Alain Gradel in front of him.
The biggest star of the list. Quiet during 2011 AFCON U-23, he became the main striker of Egypt’s senior team at 23 years old having already scored 22 goals for the Pharaohs. Mohamed Salah is one of the rare Egyptian players known worldwide for obvious reasons. In 2013, Chelsea let two of Salah’s goals slip through their nets while he was playing for FC Bâle. The Blues thought it would be better to see him score FOR them instead, so they decided to sign him. But even if Jose Mourinho liked him, his talent wasn’t good enough to take over Oscar, Hazard or Diego Costa’s spot.
After his excellent six-month-loan with Fiorentina, AS Roma’s head coach Rudi Garcia is pleased with him and Mohamed Salah has a serious chance to win his first league title in one of the world’s best leagues.