African Players In Europe: Promoted Mahrez Punishes United

Manchester City’s Algerian midfielder Riyad Mahrez (L) shoots to score their fourth goal during the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Manchester United at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on March 6, 2022. Manchester City won the game 4-1. Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

 

Algeria captain and Manchester City winger Riyad Mahrez capitalised on being promoted to the starting line-up against Manchester United by scoring twice in a 4-1 Premier League triumph at the weekend.

A substitute in the previous two league games, the 2016 African Footballer of the Year rewarded manager Pep Guardiola with the last two City goals in the derby romp at the Etihad Stadium.

It was a welcome change of fortune for the 31-year-old Paris-born star, who had netted just once in 15 previous matches against fierce rivals United.

READ ALSO: Man City Humiliate United, Extend Premier League Lead

Here, AFP Sport highlights Africans who starred in the major European leagues:

RIYAD MAHREZ (Manchester City)

Mahrez starred in City’s 4-1 demolition of United, scoring two goals to take his season’s tally to 21 in all competitions. His first goal was a superb half-volley from the edge of the area after he was found by a corner from Kevin De Bruyne, and he scored another late on to complete the rout.

WILFRIED ZAHA (Crystal Palace) 

Ivory Coast international Zaha scored a penalty for Palace in their 2-0 win at Wolves, awarded for a foul by Max Kilman on Ghanaian Jeffrey Schlupp. Zaha’s ninth league goal of the season helped lift Palace into the top half of the table.

SADIO MANE (Liverpool) 

Liverpool forward Mane, who won the Africa Cup of Nations with Senegal last month, was on target against West Ham midway through the first half at Anfield, finishing Trent Alexander-Arnold’s low cross-cum-shot. The three points kept Jurgen Klopp’s men hot on the heels of leaders Manchester City.

EDUARDO CAMAVINGA (Real Madrid)

Camavinga, 19, scored his second goal for Real Madrid in a 4-1 win over Real Sociedad. The Angola-born France midfielder equalised before half-time with a superb long-range shot fizzing into the corner. Carlo Ancelotti said Camavinga is “an option” to start in the Champions League against Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday, with Toni Kroos battling a hamstring injury.

EMMANUEL GYASI (Spezia)

Ghana forward Gyasi had a golden chance to earn Spezia what would have been a deserved draw at Juventus just after half-time, but could only aim a weak header at Wojciech Szczesny with the goal at his mercy. Spezia sit four points above the Serie A relegation zone after the 1-0 defeat.

KALIDOU KOULIBALY (Napoli)

Normally in the headlines for his imperious defensive performances, Senegal captain Koulibaly’s most notable act during Napoli’s 1-0 defeat to Serie A title rivals AC Milan was to clatter into match-winner Olivier Giroud and give him a bleeding gash which almost forced the French forward off the field midway through the first half.

TAIWO AWONIYI (Union Berlin)

Forward Awoniyi has forced his way into Nigeria’s squad thanks to an excellent season in front of goal. But the 24-year-old former Liverpool youngster scored at the wrong end as Union slipped to a 1-0 defeat at VfL Wolfsburg. The capital club need Awoniyi to start finding the right net if they are to arrest their slump and maintain a Champions League push.

FRANCE LEBO MOTHIBA (Troyes)

The South African scored his first goal since December 2019 as he came off the bench to wrap up a 2-0 victory over Bordeaux from the penalty spot. Mothiba, 26, was loaned out by Strasbourg in January after signing an extension with the club until 2024 following two years wrecked by injury.

AFP

Mane, Ndidi And Other Stars To Watch At The Cup Of Nations

A photo combination showing Mane, Ndidi, and Salah.

 

As the Africa Cup of Nations begins in Cameroon on Sunday, here are stars to watch out for at the tournament:

Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City and Nigeria)

File photo: Brazil’s forward Neymar (R) fights for the ball with the Super Eagles of Nigeria’s midfielder Wilfred Ndidi during a friendly international football match at the National Stadium in Singapore on October 13, 2019. Roslan RAHMAN / AFP

 

The Nigerian midfielder has been a mainstay for Leicester City following his move from the Belgian side, Genk, in 2017.

To date, the 26-year-old has played over 130 times for the FA Cup holders and was instrumental in their run to that trophy.

Aside from Ndidi’s tackling and defensive attributes, he also brings physicality to the game. His incredible work rate will prove handy for the Super Eagles on a quest for a fourth continental crown in Cameroon.

His performances for the Foxes have also seen him likened to some of the best midfielders in Europe.

Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting (Bayern Munich and Cameroon)

File photo: Bayern Munich’s striker Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting reacts after scoring the 7-0 during the German first division Bundesliga football match between FC Bayern Munich and VfL Bochum in Munich, southern Germany, on September 18, 2021. (Photo by Christof STACHE / AFP)

 

Choupo-Moting was dismissed at times during his two-year stint at Paris Saint-Germain, where he was a back-up in attack to superstars Neymar and Kylian Mbappe. Yet he still popped up with some important goals and has netted 17 times in 44 appearances since signing for Bayern Munich in 2020.

The 32-year-old, who stands 1.91m tall, was born in Germany and notably played for Hamburg and Schalke at the start of his career before a stint in the Premier League at Stoke City.

Eligible for Cameroon through his father, he represented the Indomitable Lions at the 2010 and 2014 World Cups and captained them at the AFCON in 2015 and 2017. He did not go in 2017 when Cameroon won the trophy in Gabon but is the biggest name in the hosts’ squad this time as they look to win the trophy for the sixth time.

READ ALSO: [AFCON 2021] Cameroonians Ready For Football Fun

Sadio Mane (Liverpool and Senegal)

Sadio Mané 

 

Senegal are the leading African side according to the FIFA rankings and Liverpool forward Mane is their star player. A former African Footballer of the Year who also came fourth in the Ballon d’Or rankings in 2019, Mane will be hugely missed by Liverpool as he heads to Cameroon -– he has 10 goals this season for his club.

However, the 29-year-old is desperate to win African football’s biggest prize after Senegal lost to Algeria in the 2019 final. The West African country has never won the Cup of Nations.

Achraf Hakimi (Paris Saint-Germain and Morocco)

(From L) Paris Saint-Germain’s French forward Kylian Mbappe, Paris Saint-Germain’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi, Paris Saint-Germain’s Moroccan defender Achraf Hakimi and Paris Saint-Germain’s Spanish midfielder Pablo Sarabia attend a training session at the Camp des Loges Paris Saint-Germain football club’s training ground in Saint-Germain-en-Laye on august 13, 2021. (Photo by Bertrand GUAY / AFP)

 

At 23, right-back Hakimi is starring for PSG having already played for Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, and Inter Milan, and is arguably the best-attacking full-back on the planet today. He will therefore be the man to watch in a Morocco side among the leading contenders to go all the way.

Hakimi, who joined PSG from Inter last July for 60 million euros ($71 million), is, in theory, a defender, but he is chiefly a key creative and attacking outlet down the right. Born and brought up in Madrid to Moroccan parents, Hakimi was just 18 when he scored on his competitive debut for the Atlas Lions.

Mohamed Salah (Liverpool and Egypt)

Salah 'Almost 100%' Certain To Play In Egypt Opener, Coach Says
File photo: Egypt’s forward Mohamed Salah gestures as he takes part in a training session at Ekaterinburg Stadium in Ekaterinburg on June 14, 2018, a day ahead of the team’s Russia 2018 World Cup Group A opening football match against Uruguay. Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP

 

Many scoffed when Salah came seventh in the final Ballon d’Or rankings in November. It could be argued there is no better player in the world right now than the 29-year-old forward, who has scored 54 times for Liverpool since the start of last season.

Jurgen Klopp’s side will miss him and Mane while they are gone for up to a month, but Salah carries the hopes and dreams of 100 million Egyptians on his shoulders. He is the headline act in a squad made up largely of home-based players as The Pharaohs chase a record-extending eighth African crown.

Salah played in the team that lost the 2017 final to Cameroon before losing to South Africa as hosts in the last 16 in 2019.

Riyad Mahrez (Manchester City and Algeria)Another former African footballer of the year, Mahrez captained Algeria to victory in 2019 and is again the star man as they look to defend their title.

The winger has been in fine form for Manchester City, with 13 goals in 25 games this season for the Premier League leaders. Now 30, Mahrez was born and brought up in the Paris suburbs but Algeria was the land of his late father’s birth and Riyad made his international debut just before the 2014 World Cup, not long after he first moved to England with Leicester City.

Sebastien Haller (Ajax and Ivory Coast)

File photo: Cameroon’s Bangou Tchamba (C) fights for the ball with Ivory Coast’s Serge Aurier (L) and Sebastien Haller (L) during the FIFA Qatar 2022 World Cup qualification football match between Ivory Coast and Cameroon at the Alassane Ouattara Ebimpe stadium Anyama on September 6, 2021. (Photo by Issouf SANOGO / AFP)

 

The tall 27-year-old striker has been one of the stars of this season’s UEFA Champions League, scoring 10 goals in the group stage for Ajax. He became just the second player to score in all six group games, following Cristiano Ronaldo in 2017.

Haller, who has 22 goals this season, joined Ajax last January from West Ham United for 22.5 million euros ($27.5m), calling time on a disappointing spell in England to return to the Dutch league, where he was based previously.

Born and brought up in the Paris suburbs, he played for France Under-21s but opted to represent the Ivory Coast –- the land of his mother’s birth -– after getting the call aged 26.

AFP

Salah, Mane And Mahrez Battle For African Player Of Year Award

 

Mohamed Salah will face competition from Liverpool teammate Sadio Mane if he is to sweep a third consecutive African Player of the Year award.

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) tweeted that Egypt’s Salah, Mane of Senegal as well Manchester City’s Algerian forward Riyad Mahrez were on the shortlist for the award.

Salah was crowned the continent’s top player in 2017 and 2018 while Mahrez took it in 2016.

READ ALSO: Oshoala, Osimhen, Chukwueze Make Final List Of 2019 CAF Awards

Salah and Mane helped Liverpool to the Champions League, European Super Cup, and Club World Cup this year.

Mahrez, meanwhile, was part of the City team who successfully defended the Premier League title.

He was also a key part of the Algerian squad which triumphed in the African Cup of Nations.

The winner of the African Player of the Year award will be announced in Egypt on January 7.

AFP

AFCON: Mahrez Helps Algeria Brush Guinea Aside To Reach Last Eight

Algeria’s forward Riyad Mahrez (4th-L) celebrates after scoring a goal during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) Round of 16 football match between Algeria and Guinea at the 30 June Stadium in the Egyptian capital Cairo on July 7, 2019. Khaled DESOUKI / AFP

 

Manchester City winger Riyad Mahrez scored for Algeria as they coasted to the Africa Cup of Nations quarter-finals with a 3-0 victory over Guinea in Cairo on Sunday.

Youcef Belaili put the Desert Foxes ahead on 24 minutes and former African Footballer of the Year Mahrez added a second after 57 minutes in the last-16 match at the 30 June Stadium.

Substitute Adam Ounas was on the field only five minutes when he completed the rout with eight minutes remaining, connecting with a low cross to give goalkeeper Ibrahim Kone no chance.

With hosts Egypt and Herve Renard-coached Morocco suffering stunning last-16 losses, many pundits are tipping Algeria to go all the way and add to their lone title, won in 1990.

They are the only nation among the 10 survivors boasting a 100 percent record having beaten Kenya, highly-rated Senegal and Tanzania in group matches to reach the knockout phase.

Algeria will face Cote d’Ivoire or Mali in a quarter-final in Suez on Thursday then, if successful, Nigeria or South Africa for a place in the July 19 final.

Coach Djamel Belmadi changed nine of the team that outclassed Tanzania in their final group game, restoring a host of first choices like Mahrez.

Guinea meanwhile were missing Liverpool midfielder Naby Keita after he was forced to leave Egypt owing to a recurrence of a groin injury sustained against Barcelona in May.

The referee was kept busy during physical early exchanges, booking Guinean Mady Camara and Algerian Adlane Guedioura within 14 minutes of the kick-off.

Mistaken identity

Camara was punished for a blatant foul on Mahrez, but Guedioura fired wide from the resultant free-kick close to the box.

Guedioura was then booked for a foul on Martinez Kante in a case of mistaken identity as big-screen replays showed the offender was Aissa Mandi.

Baghdad Bounedjah wasted a great chance to put Algeria ahead on 20 minutes when he controlled a Guedioura cross with his chest, then blazed wide with only the goalkeeper to beat.

Bounedjah, who came to the Cup of Nations after scoring 39 goals for Qatari champions Al Sadd last season, atoned for his miss by helping Algeria take the lead.

His backheel inside the penalty area allowed Belaili to beat Kone from the tightest of angles with a shot that went into the far corner of the net.

There were more fouls than goal attempts during the remainder of a niggly opening half that finished with Algeria retaining the 1-0 advantage.

Kante became the second Guinean to be yellow-carded, for fouling Djamel Benlamri, and coach Paul Put reacted by taking him off and sending on Fode Koita.

Koita was barely on the field when Algeria doubled their lead as Mahrez collected an Ismael Bennacer cross, cut inside Issiaga Sylla and sent Kone the wrong way.

The match had long ceased to be a contest when Ounas claimed his third goal of the competition, joining three other players at the top of the scoring charts.

AFP

Arsenal Snap Up Aubameyang, Mahrez In City’s Sights

 

Aubameyang and Mahrez PHOTOS: AFP

 

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang joined Arsenal from Borussia Dortmund for a club record fee of £56 million (63.7 million euros, 79.2 million euros) on Wednesday, in the biggest deal so far on transfer deadline day.

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger — who last August kept the football world on tenterhooks as he held out selling Alexis Sanchez to Manchester City because he failed to secure Thomas Lemar from Monaco — did not wait until the last minute to land the Gabon striker.

Wenger persuaded the Arsenal board to pay more for the 28-year-old than the £46.5 million they shelled out for Frenchman Alexandre Lacazette last August.

Dortmund have eyed up a six-month loan move for Belgian international Michy Batshuayi from champions Chelsea, who have stipulated there will be no option to buy at the end of that period.

“Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has joined us from Borussia Dortmund on a long-term contract for a club-record fee,” the statement from Arsenal said.

The club described him as “one of the world’s most highly-rated strikers”.

“He scored 98 goals in 144 Bundesliga games for Dortmund and had a hand in 172 goals in 213 matches in all competitions for his former club,” it continued.

Aubameyang’s arrival should see French veteran Olivier Giroud completing the musical chairs by signing for Chelsea even though Wenger was loathe to let him move to a rival as Sanchez joined Manchester United earlier this month.

However, the French striker is keen to stay in London as he seeks regular first team action to secure his place in France’s World Cup squad.

Surprise Mahrez bid

Aubameyang will alleviate the pressure on Lacazette although he would be ineligible for the Europa League having already played in the Champions League this campaign.

Elsewhere runaway leaders Manchester City have lodged a surprise £60 million bid for 2016 champions Leicester City’s Algerian star Riyad Mahrez, who ignored manager Claude Puel’s pleas for him to stay by putting in a transfer request.

However, Leicester are unlikely to let the 26-year-old — who was a key player in their stunning title success in 2016 and who has returned to form this term after a dip last season — leave for less than £90 million.

City have lost influential Germany winger Leroy Sane for up to seven weeks with an ankle injury and with the club competing on four fronts Guardiola suggested he may require a replacement.

“Right now, it’s the same as (Alexis) Sanchez, it’s not the place to talk about it. It’s so difficult,” City manager Pep Guardiola said on Tuesday when asked about Mahrez.

“If things are not possible, then nothing is going to happen. We don’t have too much and we play every three days. We have to find solutions.”

It’s not just the top clubs involved in the frenetic last few hours of a January that apart from Sanchez becoming the highest-paid player in the league — on a reported pre-tax £500,000 a week — has seen City pay a record fee of £57 million for young French centre-back Aymeric Laporte from Athletic Bilbao.

Tottenham too are getting close to signing Brazilian Lucas Moura, who has fallen out of favour at French giants Paris Saint Germain with the arrivals of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.

The 25-year-old has according to reports passed his medical and would be the fifth most expensive signing in the club’s history — PSG would like the majority of the £26.5 million fee paid up front.

Those fighting to remain in the cash-rich upper echelon will also get in on the act with Swansea — whose win over Liverpool saw them move out of the bottom three — seeking to bring Ghanaian striker Andre Ayew back to Wales.

The Swans are hoping to sign the 28-year-old for around £18million according to the London Evening Standard — having sold him to the Hammers for £20.5 million in 2016 — but the London side who have only Javier Hernandez as their one fit striker will want to bring in a replacement.

Watford’s long-time servant Troy Deeney could fill the void and is valued at £16 million to leave the club he has been with since 2010.

AFP