Morocco's Younès Belhanda is one player who could be leaving his current club before the end of January.
International tournaments are a world football scout’s dream. Rarely are so many players, from so many far-flung places, gathered in a region for weeks at a time, testing their skills against top-level opposition.
The Africa Cup of Nations is a perfect example of such a competition. Although the domestic leagues in many parts of the continent are improving in both quality and organization, the event centralizes African talent, which is often lightly scattered from the developing sub-Saharan divisions to the more established leagues of West and North Africa to the most prominent divisions in Europe.
No doubt a handful of players will use the 2013 Cup of Nations in South Africa as a springboard to bigger clubs and better wages. Granted, not all of them will hit the ground running. But for every Emmanuel Mayuka, who has struggled since joining Southampton from Young Boys following the 2012 AFCON, there will be a Modibo Maiga, who has impressed at West Ham since a July transfer from Sochaux.
The following slides reveal five players at the 2013 instalment of Africa’s most prestigious tournament who could be swapping one club for another in the coming months—some, perhaps, as soon as next week.
Mbokani, 27, arrived in South Africa as the third-highest scorer in the Belgian league this season with 15 goals.
He helped Anderlecht to the title in his first season at the club following a move from Monaco, and in his first match at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations he assisted a Trésor Mputu goal and scored from the spot in an impressive 2-2 draw against Ghana.
Chelsea, Everton, Fulham and Sunderland have been rumoured to be interested in Mbokani in the past, and in November Anderlecht president Hermann Van Holsebeeck revealed he wouldn’t accept less than €10 million for him.
Onazi is thought to have caught Tottenham Hotspur manager Andre Villas-Boas’ eye when the Lazio midfielder faced the London side in the Europa League late last year.
Just 20 years old, Onazi is part of a new generation of Nigeria internationals manager Stephen Keshi is trying to blood into his squad, and against Burkina Faso on Monday he replaced Fegor Ogude in the 70th minute.
A tenacious defensive midfielder, Onazi has made 12 appearances for Lazio so far this season, six of them in the Europa League.
Tunisia were under the cosh for 90 minutes against Algeria on Tuesday before Youssef Msakni’s spectacular goal won the North African derby for the Carthage Eagles, but one of their few bright spots over the entire match was Aymen Abdennour, who consistently won his match-ups on the left flank.
Abdennour, 23, joined Toulouse from Tunisian giants Étoile du Sahel in 2011 and was a regular starter for the Ligue 1 side last season. Comfortable as both a left-back and left-winger, he has been rumoured to be on Arsene Wenger’s shopping list at Arsenal, although both Real Madrid and Barcelona have been keeping an eye on him as well.
One player who could quite likely make a move before the end of January is Stoppila Sunzu, the Zambia defender who famously scored the winning penalty at the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations final.
The 23-year-old, who also helped Congolese side TP Mazembe to the 2010 African Champions League title and a famous win over Internacional at the Club World Cup, passed a medical at Reading before arriving in South Africa and, according to Sky Sports, could join up with the Berkshire club at the conclusion of the competition.
One problem is Sunzu’s contract, which he and his agent believe expired last month. Mazembe, however, are adamant the player is bound to them until 2015. Agent Paul Carew says he has appealed to FIFA and the English FA to help resolve the situation.
Just because he is currently contesting the Africa Cup of Nations with Morocco hasn’t stopped Montpellier from shopping Belhanda around Europe.
The 22-year-old playmaker was at the heart of the Ligue 1 side’s impressive title win last season, but the financial reality at the diminutive club has seen his name linked to the likes of Fenerbahce and Inter Milan, who club president Louis Nicollin claims made a €14 million bid for Belhanda earlier this week.
Milan have since denied the rumour, but the fact remains that Montpellier are keen to cash in on their most-prized asset, and would prefer to do it before the end of the month.