This article profiles 10 African players who should be January transfer targets for Premier League sides.
For most EPL sides, that means reeling through a list of obscure contacts, pulling out the chequebook and heading to your local transfer list to track down anybody and everybody that might be available, and competent enough, to help out your mid-season plight.
With competition for players as fierce as ever, and many clubs across Europe clamouring to recruit the finest stars available, managers often have to turn to the less-heralded territories to recruit players of prerequisite quality.
Africa continues to be a hot bed for young talent, and several of the players on this list, could well be the strangers in the phonebook, just waiting for a call, the perfect cure to those January blues.
Attacking right-back whose family wanted him to be a doctor, offers a physical presence and loves to get forward. The glittering bright hope of Akure team Sunshine Stars, Kwambe is one of the gems of the Nigerian Premier League.
Still only 19, he is already a Nigerian international, having made his debut in August last year. By no means the finished product, expect him to be the future of Nigeria’s right flank—especially considering Stephen Keshi’s proclivity for adventurous, progressive full-back play.
Missed out on the triumphant AFCON campaign, but was included in the Super Eagles’ side at the Confederations Cup.
Nowhere near polished enough for regular, top end Premier League competition, Kwambe could be an exciting (and cheap) option for a mid-table to relegation-scrapping side keen to cut some costs and recruit for the future.
Cites Sergio Ramos as a hero, but would do well to emulate someone like Nathaniel Clyne, who is growing into his role as a Premier League defender at Southampton.
Burkinabe defensive midfielder desperate to find a home after having been released by Sheriff Tiraspol.
Lorient boss Christian Gourcuff has indicated that the aggressive midfielder will not be getting a full-time deal in Brittany, meaning that he is free to begin installing himself at another English club as soon as an offer comes in.
Prospective buyers will get a chance to watch the fierce tackler in action on October 12 as he will likely be part of the Burkina Faso side that takes on Algeria in the first leg of their World Cup qualifying play-off.
The exceptionally-named Dove Wome recently transferred, moving between South African teams Free State Stars and Mamelodi Sundows. That’s not to say, however, that some EPL money couldn’t persuade him to switch once again should the opportunity be right.
A Togolese international, the midfielder may be small in stature, but his impact has occasionally been huge—particularly when it comes to scoring important goals. Has made an instant impact at his new club, where he has justified his large salary with a sublime match-winning goal against Golden Arrows.
Could play a role as a dynamic midfield influence capable of changing the course of a match at any number of relegation-threatened Premier League clubs. Only 22, he may be better served taking up an apprenticeship in the Championship before taking it to the top leagues.
His small frame might impede him from making a major impact in England.
The Zambian defender with the nominative deterministic name has long been tipped for a stint in the Premier League. A young member of the Chipolopolo team that became African champions in 2012, he is a player with the considerable qualities to make a difference in the EPL.
After serving his tutelage in Zambia, he moved to African giants TP Mazembe in 2009. In the Congo he developed into one of the continent’s finest defensive players and contributed to some of the Lubumbashi club’s most glorious years.
WLTM: Formerly linked with Arsenal, Sunzu's proposed destinations have become a little less glamorous as the years have worn on. A move to Reading looked on while the Royals were still in the Premier League. Since then he has had a trial at Sunderland and also been linked with Fulham.
Still only 24, a future in England may still be in the cards.
One of Sunzu’s teammates, for both club and country, is Rainford Kalaba—he is another who could be set to make the step up to the big time sometime soon.
Kalaba is another who rode the Chipolopolo’s rise to the summit of African football, but who was also present during the side’s decline over the last 18 months.
He flopped in France with Nice as a teenager. The move came too soon. He also had a brief sojourn with Braga. Now older and wiser, he could be primed to take a second shot at the big time.
WLTM: Fast and technical, Kalaba is another who might struggle in the hurly burly of English football. At 27, a move to England is certainly unlikely, however, the player nicknamed “The Master” could be the driving force for a side seeking inspiration in the park—but only if he can keep his infamous temper in check.
Diminutive right winger who excels as a substitute for Ghana, but could be set for a more central role in the future. Asante is an explosive player who delights in taking on full-backs, bewitching them with his movement, technique and intelligent touches.
He is unpolished and too often frustrates with his delivery, but the raw materials are there for Asante to begin replicating the impact of the wonderful Christian Atsu on the other Black Stars flank.
A two-time top scorer in the Burkinabe Premier League, he is a wideman who also contributes to the goal tally—an invaluable commodity.
WLTM: El Diablo has stated his intention of making the switch to Europe. He could be an interesting prospect at a club like West Ham—who place a high importance on their wing play, or Fulham who will soon be looking for a long-term replacement for Damien Duff. The Cottagers also have a Black Star connection, with Derek Boateng currently operating in the midfield.
A superstar with Ghanaian side Berekum Chelsea, where his consistent finishing saw him becoming one of the most feared forwards in Ghana. He also impressed during the club’s performances in the African Champions League, where his talents were presented to the wider, continental audience.
Before long he stepped away from West Africa and moved to Esperance in Tunis, a move that hasn’t quite worked out as planned.
He’s certainly moved away from the limelight, and needs to kick start his career.
WLTM: Has pace and power and could become a valuable asset to a Championship team with big aspirations. Might take inspiration from Egyptian forward Gedo, who tried his hand with Hull in the second tier before rejoining the club in the top flight.
Nigerian defensive midfielder who has carved out a niche for himself in the Norwegian League with Valerenga. A combative player who combines power and grit to regain the ball for both club and country.
Has had to face the scepticism of Super Eagles fans at times over the last 18 months, but has begrudgingly earned their respect after some wholehearted outings at the Confederations Cup.
WLTM: Not the most couth addition to an English side, but Ogude is a versatile competitor who never gives less than 100% Could add some brawl and bite to a side struggling to assert themselves in the middle of the pitch.
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Young forward Ben Youssef is being viewed as the future of Tunisian football. He has struggled to truly break into the national side as yet, but still only 22, he looks set to have a long and glittering career with the Eagles of Carthage.
The forward is by no means prolific, but his impressive frame and strong, imposing attacking play bring others into the game and provide a platform for the side’s attacking midfielders to operate from.
WLTM: Few Tunisian players have ever made a major impact in England, and it is unlikely that Ben Youssef would break the mould. A move to France, where his compatriots have previously thrived, might be a better bet.
Could be one of North Africa’s finest forwards over the next decade.
The Cape Verdean forward is one of the finest players to ever represent the island nation and is blossoming into one of West Africa’s finest young strikers.
In 2008 he left his homeland to seek his fortune in France with Le Harve. After four years in Normandy he made the move north and stepped up a gear with former champions Lille.
Replacing the club’s glorious Ligue 1 champions, who one by one departed for pastures new, was never going to be an easy prospect, and Mendes has struggled to impose himself in Ligue 1.
The odd game has seen a flourish of prodigious ability, but in truth, it may be only this season that we truly get to see Mendes’s worth.
WLTM: He needs to overcome his injury concerns in order to realise his potential at Lille, but a change of scene and a refreshed environment could help him attain his finest form.
The ideal situation, however, would be that an injury-free Mendes could be the main man in Northern France and lead the Dogues back up to the top of the French league. Previously linked to Fulham.