As the January transfer window enters its final few stages, expect the inevitable rush of deadline-day enquiries and panic purchases.
A poor result or an unexpected injury can prompt clubs to turn to the market and with the World Cup on the horizon, ambitious, disaffected players everywhere are eyeing up an escape route or a means back to prominence.
A number of African stars have already made moves during the window so far.
Nigerian players and continental champions Elderson Echiejile and Sunday Mba have moved to French sides Monaco and CA Bastia respectively, "The Egyptian Messi" Mohamed Salah has switched to Chelsea, while Peter Odemwingie has again jumped ship, exchanging Cardiff City for Stoke City.
This article profiles 20 African players who look primed for a transfer in 2014.
Ivorian defender Serge Aurier is one of those rare players who looks perfectly comfortable in two positions. He is adept at flying down the right flank as a progressive full-back but similarly impressive as a centre-back.
This season he has largely operated as the right-sided player in Toulouse’s back three and has been a revelation in Ligue 1.
Bacary Sagna is yet to sign a new contract at Arsenal, according to Lee Hurley of Metro and so it is feasible that Arsene Wenger will be looking for a replacement in the summer. James Dickenson of the Express has reported that Aurier is one of the players that Wenger is keeping tabs on as he looks to fill this potential void.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has not been slow to splash the cash during the transfer window to date as he attempts to sign the personnel needed to keep Cardiff City in the Premier League.
The likes of Mats Daehli, Fabio da Silva and Magnus Wolff Eikrem have already made the move to the struggling Bluebirds.
Another name linked with a transfer to South Wales is Mame Biram Diouf, the former Manchester United forward and Senegalese international. According to the Guardian, the club have already made an approach to sign the speedy frontman, currently featuring for Bundesliga side Hannover.
At the time of writing, however, the deal still hasn’t been confirmed. Indeed, it may be that Diouf doesn’t move at all. According to kicker-Sportmagazin, via Sky Sports, his current club chairman Martin Kind has apparently asked the forward to consider remaining at the club beyond the end of his contract.
Senegalese star Cheikhou Kouyate is one player who definitely looks set to change his surroundings over the next 12 months. The defender has largely outgrown Anderlecht and the Belgian Jupiler League and is primed to embark on a fascinating career.
He has courted attention ever since Senegal’s run to the quarter-finals of the 2012 Olympic games in London and is looking like a fine prospect.
According to Ed Aarons of Goal.com, Premier League sides Liverpool, Arsenal and Southampton have all been linked with the player. Russian giants CSKA Moscow have also made a bid of €6.5m (£5.3m).
Don’t expect Kouyate to stay in Brussels for too much longer.
Back in November, Ben Jefferson of the Express reported (via Izvestia) that Christopher Samba was being monitored by two Premier League clubs.
Both West Ham and Newcastle have been prone to defensive lapses this season and the Congolese centre-back is a man with the presence and the experience to solve—in the short-term at least—any woes at the back.
Despite a poor showing during a brief stint at QPR, the defender retains a good reputation in England following an impressive time at Blackburn Rovers.
He would be a realistic target for any number of Premier League clubs looking for a fire-fighter or an ambitious Championship side with aspirations of making (and staying in) the Premier League.
Victor Moses has largely failed to make an impact since arriving at Liverpool on loan during the summer.
Despite scoring both on his debut against Swansea and in a recent FA Cup tie with Bournemouth, his underwhelming displays prompted Sami Mokbel of the Daily Mail to remark that Moses had "again struggled to fulfil the potential that saw Barcelona send scouts to watch him during his Palace days."
Brendan Rodgers has challenged Moses to earn himself a permanent switch to Liverpool, but even if he fails to do that, the Nigerian ought to seek a switch away from Chelsea.
The Blues’ recent signing of Egyptian star Mohamed Salah creates increased competition in an already congested area of the squad and Moses will surely struggle to assert himself in Jose Mourinho’s plans.
In early December, Barry Glendenning of the Guardian quoted West Bromwich Albion’s Youssouf Mulumbu revealing that Arsenal were interested in his signature:
I have had approaches from Arsenal.
I could leave this winter. This is the right time for me to set my sights higher. I'm ready to join a top four club. We are not professional enough in the way we manage our games – for example our draw at Chelsea. We are not mature enough.
Sky Sports later reported that Mulumbu claimed he had been misquoted, but that didn’t put an end to the rumours that surrounded the Congolese defensive midfielder.
At 27, Mulumbu is in his prime and, having already made 150 appearances for the Albion, can boast admirable Premier League experience.
The link with Arsenal looks unlikely to disappear any time soon.
With the transfer window drawing swiftly to a close, Ishak Belfodil remains an Internazionale player.
The striker can’t be happy with this situation. According to Le Buteur via Goal.com, the Algerian international has made no secret of his desire to quit the club. Belfodil is keen to star at this summer’s World Cup and knows that continued time on the Inter bench will reduce his chances of featuring for the Desert Foxes.
Juha Pal of Sky Sports reported via Voetbal International that Liverpool had made an offer for Heerenveen defender Kenny Otigba in late 2013.
The potential move was, however, vetoed by the player who opted to remain in Holland on the advice of his agent, who suggested that the "Dutch school is better than the English."
Nonetheless, Otigba was keen to add that to play in "English football has always been my dream."
The centre-back has represented Hungary at U-21 level but may still choose to represent the Nigeria senior side. If he can force his way into the Super Eagles’ side for the World Cup, then he may well have a few more transfer offers to consider over the summer.
Chelsea have already spent big during this January window. They brought Nemanja Matic back to the club, re-signing him from Benfica, and also splashed out to recruit Mohamed Salah, dubbed the "Egyptian Messi."
In late 2013, James Dickenson of the Express revealed that Chelsea were "plotting a £25 million move" for Marseille defensive midfielder Giannelli Imbula.
So far, no move has materialised, but Imbula has the presence and the bite to be a big success in a Premier League midfielder.
The former Guingamp man was born in Belgium and has played for France U-21s. However, as a citizen of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and considering Les Bleus’ magnificent options in central midfield, he may opt to represent the Leopards.
Defensive midfielder Ogenyi Onazi had an outstanding time in 2013. The youngster forged a spot for himself in Stephen Keshi’s Nigeria side during the Cup of Nations and went on to become an influential figure as the Super Eagles claimed the continental crown.
Onazi was sorely missed at the Confederations Cup during the summer but has returned to the side and should be a key man at the World Cup in Brazil.
Both Liverpool and Everton are aware of his talents, but despite interest from the latter, according to Ben Jefferson of the Express, Onazi’s preference would be for the Reds.
It is unlikely that, at this late stage, he will seal a move during this transfer window, but come the summer, the 20-year-old might be due for a switch away from Lazio.
Former Chelsea forward Kalou is another to have been linked with a move to the Premier League during the January transfer window.
To date, the move hasn’t materialised, but that doesn’t mean that the versatile attacker won’t return to England over the coming months.
Colin Harvey of the Daily Star has indicated that potential suitors Spurs, Arsenal and Liverpool have met strong resistance in the form of Lille president Michel Seydoux, but all three could still make a persuasive bid.
Moroccan playmaker Adel Taarabt has endured a stuttering few seasons.
Having single-handedly guided QPR into the Premier League, the mercurial midfielder has struggled to asset himself in the top flight, first with the Hoops and subsequently with Fulham.
According to the BBC, AC Milan are keen on recruiting Taarabt, who is currently on loan at Craven Cottage.
Taarabt sat out Tuesday’s 2-0 league defeat to Swansea, as boss Rene Meulensteen admitted that he was anticipating a bid: "There has been some interest [in Taarabt]—that is all I know so far."
Young defender Kenneth Omeruo was always going to struggle to break into the Chelsea first team this season.
Even though he managed to overcome a shoulder injury suffered during the Confederations Cup, as reported by Kolade Oni of Goal.com, he still faced the daunting task of unsettling the likes of John Terry, David Luiz, Branislav Ivanovic and Gary Cahill to find some game time.
Fortunately, he managed to secure a January loan move to Middlesbrough, as reported by Oluwashina Okeleji of the BBC. The deal ought to give Omeruo some valuable minutes ahead of the World Cup and also teach him about the physical demands of English football.
However, what happens when this season comes to an end? Don’t expect Omeruo to settle for life in the Chelsea reserve team, or on temporary loan deals, for too much longer.
Like Kenneth Omeruo, Jordan Ayew has secured a loan move away from a major side in order to achieve an upturn in his career fortunes.
The Ghanaian international broke into the Marseille side some five years ago but, to date, has been unable to realise his immense potential.
Ayew sometimes gives the impression of not caring and not striving to be the best he can be; this perceived apathy is a concern for both Ghana and OM.
A loan switch to Sochaux may well give him the game time and the responsibility to impress, but it could be that a permanent change of scene this summer is the only tonic for a career that is in danger of slipping off the rails.
It has been a mixed week for Sulley Muntari.
The Ghanaian midfielder was delighted at Milan’s acquisition of his long-time friend and national team-mate Michael Essien.
"Essien has a lot of experience and played so much in Europe for many important clubs," Muntari told reporters, according to Edmund Okai Gyimah of Goal.com.
"I am happy that he is here. I hope he can bring a great deal to Milan."
However, Muntari’s week was also dominated by rumours of a departure from the San Siro.
According to Bill Cooper of the Mirror, Hull boss Steve Bruce was keen to strengthen his midfield by making a "£3.9 million swoop" for the Black Stars international.
The Hull Daily Mail reported on January 23 that the move had fallen through, as the midfielder committed himself to an immediate future at the San Siro.
It remains to be seen, however, whether the 29-year-old midfielder will remain at the club beyond the summer—could he finally return to the EPL? Bruce will doubtless be monitoring the situation.
Turkish site Sabah has indicated that even though Galatasaray are keen to extend Didier Drogba’s stay in Istanbul, the Ivorian frontman has no intention of prolonging his time at the club.
Alex Labidou of Goal.com reported that Drogba is targeting either Los Angeles or New York, which would see him treading a well-worn pathway into inevitable retirement.
Might the World Cup be the last time we see the legendary forward perform at the elite level?
Towards the end of December, the Mirror reported that Fulham were lining up a £1.8 million bid for Valenciennes defender Benjamin Angoua.
Struggling in the Premier League and heading swiftly towards relegation, the Cottagers require a change in fortunes and an improvement in their solidity and resilience. Angoua could be the man to provide it.
The Ivorian stopper is out of contract at the end of the season and so Valenciennes may well jump at the chance to take a fee for the player now. If he doesn’t move in the closing days of the transfer window, expect a lot of attention in the summer.
Saint-Etienne have included the West African in a list of possible replacements for Kurt Zouma, the powerful centre-back who looks set for big things, as per Le 10 Sport (in French).
Powerful Malian forward Cheick Diabate could well be an excellent fit in the Premier League.
It took a while for him to establish himself in Ligue 1 with Bordeaux, but once he did, he demonstrated his prowess as a fine all-round striker or target man.
The arrival of Guillaume Hoarau has, however, reduced Diabate’s first-team options in the Girondins and he has been heavily linked with a move to England.
The BBC’s January transfer window round-up linked Diabate with a move to Newcastle where he would fit well into the Magpies’ Francophone dressing room.
Another option appears to be Crystal Palace who, according to Ed Malyon of the Mirror, have got scouts watching the player.
Earlier in the transfer window, Ben Burrows of the Mirror reported that Liverpool were in "pole position" to sign Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu.
The Ghanaian midfielder is a product of the celebrated Udinese recruitment system and, like Kwadwo Asamoah and Mehdi Benatia before him, looks set for a career at the top of the sport.
Could Liverpool be the environment in which this talented midfielder can truly flourish?
He has the dynamism and energy to thrive in the Premier League, and can also boast a fine shot from distance.
At the time of writing, no move has been agreed, although—speaking to Ed Aarons of Goal.com—Badu admitted that he would welcome any approach by Liverpool.
The contract of legendary Cameroonian forward Samuel Eto’o is coming to an end in the summer.
Even though Jose Mourinho, according to Simon Johnson of the Evening Standard, has challenged Eto’o to impress him enough to earn a one-year extension to current deal, the sensible money would be on the striker seeking pastures new this summer.
Dominic Fifield, of the Guardian, reported in early January that the former Barcelona man was set for a summer switch to the MLS. Both Los Angeles Galaxy and DC United were touted as potential destinations.
However, speaking on a Spanish radio station, Cadena Copa, according again to the Evening Standard, Eto’o feels pressured to make a move back to Mallorca, that club that gave him his big break in the sport:
I'll always like Barca, but I prefer Mallorca. My son has pressured me to finish [my career] there. My son is from Mallorca.