Premier League Stars Whose Reputations Grew at the African Cup of Nations
Since the monetization of the Premier League opened it up to become a global competition, the EPL has welcomed many wonderful African players to its shores.
Probably the best African footballer in the Premier League right now, is the man pictured: Yaya Toure, of Manchester City and the Ivory Coast.
However, Toure is not the type of player that we're going to focus on today. Instead we look at the players who arrived in South Africa under something of a cloud and have returned, if not as conquering heroes, then at least in much brighter spirits.
Here are five Premier League stars whose reputations grew at the African Cup of Nations.
5. Modibo Maiga
Having sat out Mali’s first two games with an injury, Modibo Maiga returned to the side just in time to help them qualify from their group and then book a place in the semifinals.
Maiga signed for West Ham last summer, but the forward has struggled so far to establish himself at Upton Park.
In the 2012 Cup of Nations, Maiga contracted malaria and was forced to miss the semifinal against the Ivory Coast. This time round, he has regained fitness for the business end of the tournament, featuring in Mali’s 1-1 draw with Congo and then the quarterfinal victory over South Africa.
Next up for Maiga and Mali is a semifinal against Nigeria. Win or lose, Maiga should be returning to West Ham fully fit and ready to contribute to their Premier League campaign.
4. Victor Moses
The Chelsea attacker has had a decent start to life at Stamford Bridge since signing from Wigan and has now further enhanced his reputation, with his international exploits for Nigeria.
Moses had represented England at U16, U17, U19 and U21 levels before deciding to make the switch to Nigeria. With the player performing well for both club and country, it looks as if England’s loss is Nigeria’s gain.
It was Moses who scored twice from the spot to secure Nigeria’s victory over Ethiopia and book a place in the quarterfinal.
Moses was again impressive in Nigeria’s 2-1 victory over the Ivory Coast, as the Super Eagles swept into the semifinals. No matter what happens from here on in, Moses can return to Chelsea full of confidence and ready to reclaim the first-team spot that he won under Rafa Benitez.
3. Emmanuel Adebayor
While Emmanuel Adebayor has been a top Premier League player for several years now and is undoubtedly Togo’s greatest player ever, it’s still true to say that this tournament has enhanced his reputation as it stands at present.
Adebayor has endured a stop-start season for Tottenham since signing in the summer from Manchester City. He was struck with injury early on, only to find an in-form Jermain Defoe blocking his return to the first team.
When he finally did get back into the side, Adebayor was sent off against his former team Arsenal and forced to serve a three-match suspension. Having served the suspension and forced his way back into the team, Adebayor left Spurs to play in AFCON 2013.
The rangy striker has shown none of the form that saw him plunder 18 goals while on-loan last season, since his permanent transfer to Tottenham. So far, he’s scored just three goals this season, but Spurs fans who have watched him for Togo this winter, will be hopeful that he will return having re-found his mojo.
Adabayor was on target during Togo’s 2-0 win over Algeria and has been at the heart of the team's attacking play, as he led his country to the quarterfinal stages. With Jermain Defoe out injured, he now needs to be similarly inspirational for Tottenham.
2. John Obi Mikel
Like Adebayor, John Obi Mikel is another player who has enjoyed a very successful Premier League career.
However, as is also the case with Adebayor, the Chelsea midfielder has had his dips in form and suffered some criticism.
Yet, it's obvious that Chelsea are missing Mikel right now. They lack a presence in defensive midfield and are shipping a huge amount of goals.
While Mikel has been missed by Chelsea, he has been inspirational for Nigeria, as the team reached the semifinals. His defensive contribution has been vital and his range of passing surprising, as he's relished in the freedom not often afforded to him at Stamford Bridge.
With the exception of Andre Santos, no player has caused more groans at the Emirates this season than Gervinho.
So when the Ivorian left for the African Cup of Nations, Arsenal fans can be forgiven if they felt a tinge of relief.
It's been a surprise then to see the player in such sharp form. Gervinho has missed some easy chances at Arsenal this season but suffered no such problems when scoring against Togo and Tunisia.
It may well be an issue of confidence, and Arsenal fans will hope that Gervinho will return from the tournament with some of that confidence restored.
Now if they could just find an international tournament to ship Andre Santos off to.