There are five African countries at the Fifa World Cup, each boasting some excellent players – and these eight, in particular, could interest England’s elite.
Mahmoud ‘Trezeguet’ Hassan (Egypt)
Mohamed Salah might be Egypt’s main man for the 2018 World Cup, but the concerns over his fitness might be allayed (a little) by Trezeguet’s presence in the side. No, not that one, but Mahmoud Hassan, who was exceptional for Turkish side Kasimpasa during their 2017-18 Super Lig campaign.
The 23-year-old winger is commonly referred to as Trezeguet because of his resemblance to the French football legend. On loan from Anderlecht, the Egyptian scored 13 league goals and assisted six for Kasimpasa last season, ranking him among the country’s most productive players.
Hassan is set to be deployed as a left-sided attacking midfielder in Hector Cuper’s 4-2-3-1 system, and the Argentine will look to utilise his player’s trickery and neat link-up play. The winger’s desire to play in the Premier League is well known, so stellar performances at the World Cup coupled with his impressive displays in Turkey could put England’s top-flight clubs on high alert.
Would suit: Watford, Southampton, West Ham United
Hakim Ziyech (Morocco)
Coming off the back of another superb season at Ajax, Ziyech is widely expected to be the star of Morocco’s World Cup campaign.
The 25-year-old winger led Ajax to the Europa League final in 2017 but somehow remained in Amsterdam for another year despite his superb showings. Having replicated that form in 2017-18, scoring nine goals and creating 15 more, he’s almost certain to move this summer – but for how much may well depend on his showings in Russia this summer.
While he’s not a rapid player by Premier League standards, Ziyech is an exceptional dribbler, passer and set-piece taker. He’d make an excellent addition to most Premier League sides.
Would suit: Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur
Kalidou Koulibaly (Senegal)
Widely regarded as one of the best defenders in the Serie A, Koulibaly will attract no shortage of suitors if he takes his club form with him to Russia.
The Senegal international has been a consistent performer in Napoli’s backline since arriving at the club from Belgian side Genk in 2014. The 26-year-old centre-back has been a key part of a side that consistently improved each season under the highly rated, but now departed, Maurizio Sarri.
Standing at 6ft 5in and packing an incredible leap, Koulibaly rarely loses an aerial duel. He’s a brick wall in defence but is also capable of distributing the ball with accuracy, as evidenced by his 91 percent pass completion rate last term.
Would suit: Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United
Oghenekaro Etebo (Nigeria)
Etebo’s profile grew after a fine individual performance in Las Palmas’s 1-1 draw against Barcelona last season. The midfielder seemingly covered every blade of grass on the pitch, working tirelessly to keep his side’s midfield compact while also pushing forward to break past Barça’s press.
The 22-year-old arrived in the Canary Islands on loan from Portuguese outfit Feirense in late January, as manager Paco Jemez aimed to introduce a new dynamic to his side’s midfield.
Etebo featured against England in this month’s friendly at Wembley, coming on at half-time to play a part in Nigeria’s much-improved second-half display, and is expected to be a key man for the Super Eagles at the World Cup. Following the relegation of his loan side Las Palmas, Etebo – or his people – are highly likely to pick up the phone should a Premier League side come calling after the World Cup.
Would suit: Crystal Palace, Huddersfield Town, Newcastle United
Keita Balde (Senegal)
A similar player to Sadio Mané in many ways, Balde is a must-watch attacker at the 2018 World Cup. The 23-year-old arrived at Monaco from Lazio last summer and put up some terrific performances, scoring eight goals and registering five assists in 23 Ligue 1 starts.
Like his international teammate Mane, Keita possesses blistering pace, flair and excellent agility which allows him to make sharp turns on the ball. He’s 6ft tall, but an exceptional dribbler with great balance. The former Lazio man features primarily as a left winger, but he’s capable of being deployed anywhere across the forward line thanks to his adeptness with both feet.
Would suit: Arsenal, Liverpool
Younes Belhanda (Morocco)
Southampton’s Sofiane Boufal was unsurprisingly overlooked for Morocco’s World Cup squad by manager Herve Renard after an inconsistent season with the Saints. Yet even with his absence, Morocco have enough creativity within their ranks thanks to star men Ziyech and Younes Belhanda.
Belhanda – a Ligue 1 winner with Montpellier in 2011-12 – was a key player for Galatasaray last season, pulling the strings in midfield to contribute three goals and eight assists in his team’s title-winning campaign. The Morocco international is known for his passing ability and close control on the ball.
Morocco boss Herve Renard is expected to deploy the 28-year-old as a No.10 role in a bid to maximise his creative prowess.
Would suit: West Ham United, Wolves
Moussa Konate (Senegal)
Having played a major role in the surprising mid-table finish of minnows Amiens in Ligue 1, Konate is now on the radars of Premier League clubs ahead of the World Cup.
The 25-year-old attacker bagged 13 league goals last term, two of which came in a hard-fought 2-2 draw against PSG, where Konate grabbed the man-of-the-match award. He’s a great header of the ball and, with the likes of Balde and Mane alongside him this summer, has at least two quality suppliers of aerial ammunition. Lyon are rumoured to be interested in his signature.
Would suit: Bournemouth, Brighton & Hove Albion, Crystal Palace
Wahbi Khazri (Tunisia)
Khazri might be in for a Premier League return if he can capitalise on his excellent season at Rennes with a strong showing at the World Cup.
The Tunisian endured an inconsistent time at Sunderland, often going missing in games and failing to create quality chances. He was loaned to Ligue 1 side Rennes after the Black Cats’ Premier League relegation, and duly rediscovered his form. The 27-year-old scored nine goals and carved out two assists en route to a fifth-place finish, marking Rennes’ first European qualification since 2011-12.
After Sunderland’s second successive relegation, Khazri will doubtlessly be on the move this summer. He’ll be looking to impress at the World Cup to remind a global audience that he has greater potential than he showed at the Stadium of Light.
Would suit: Newcastle United, Watford, Southampton
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