10 Africans Who Could Secure Transfers on Back of World Cup Performances
While teams are much less likely to uncover previously undiscovered talent at the World Cup than they were over a decade ago, the tournament remains one of the greatest “shop windows” for professional players.
The Senegal side of 2002 remains Africa’s greatest example of the careers of a team being altered completely thanks to one summer in the sun. The Lions of Teranga remain a classic case to inspire players from lesser-heralded sides to seek to change their fortunes on the grandest stage of all.
The landscape of African football is different to how it was back in 2002, but nonetheless, players representing the continent’s five have once again used the World Cup as a stage to impress potential suitors.
This article profiles 10 players who may secure transfers on the back of their showings in Brazil.
It was a World Cup of revelations for Algeria, but Yacine Brahimi, at least to the broader public, was one of the key surprises.
He probably shouldn’t have been. Admittedly, his career to date has been beset by inconsistency, but anyone who witnessed his match-winning displays against Barcelona, Elche and Malaga last season will have been fully aware of his capabilities.
Brahimi made two starts in Brazil, against South Korea and Russia, scoring once and setting up another. His explosive acceleration and terrific dribbling ability can be a menace at any level, explaining why Tottenham Hotspur, Everton and AS Roma have been linked with a transfer, as per John Cross of The Mirror.
If anyone had doubted Ogenyi Onazi’s importance to Nigeria before the World Cup, they won’t now. The young defensive midfielder was, once again, among the Super Eagles’ key men at a major tournament.
It was telling that his injury and Blaise Matuidi’s nonsending off was the turning point in the west Africans’ second-round defeat to France. The Lazio man was taken off and his replacement, Reuben Gabriel, proved neither to have the energy nor the anticipation to fill Onazi’s shoes.
It is no exaggeration to say that the 21-year-old is the glue that holds the Super Eagles together.
Everton and Liverpool have been linked to his signature in the past and may look at him again, but only once the midfielder’s injury has healed, according to Ben Jefferson of The Express.
In truth, major European clubs were on Serge Aurier’s case long before the World Cup. After his excellent showings in Ligue 1, with Toulouse FC, the right-back would have needed to have had an abysmal tournament for the expectation and the interest surrounding him to have cooled.
In fact, the opposite happened, the attacking full-back never looked out of place at the top table, and while he was unable to help the Ivory Coast qualify for the second round, he did make a big impression in the group stage.
His two delicious crosses made the difference against Japan in the Elephants’ opener; Gervinho and Wilfried Bony scored the goals, but it was Aurier’s vision and technique that made them.
At times over the last six months, it has looked a near certainty that Aurier would move to Arsenal to replace Bacary Sagna. Mathieu Debuchy’s imminent arrival at the Emirates, as reported by the Guardian's Louise Taylor, may have closed off that particular avenue, but expect a whole host of suitors to come calling for the defender’s signature.
John Obi Mikel
It seems like the only person who didn’t realise that the World Cup was a shop window for John Obi Mikel was John Obi Mikel himself.
The midfielder failed to deliver the kind of inspired displays that Nigeria fans have come to expect. Against Uruguay in the 2013 Confederations Cup, he gave the kind of performance that afforded a glimpse into the majestic player he might have been; this summer, he was barely a shadow on the midfield metronome who has, at times, been unappreciated for his contributions at Chelsea.
Mikel’s displays were lethargic, and his passing was both overly conservative and frustratingly sloppy. Fellow African midfielders Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu, Nabil Bentaleb and teammate Onazi all recorded better pass success rates than Mikel.
With Chelsea recruiting Cesc Fabregas to add to Nemanja Matic and Ramires, and with Toni Kroos another target, according to Chisanga Malata of the Daily Star, it may be time for Mikel to seek pastures new.
It’s unlikely, however, that his poor showing in Brazil will have attracted the calibre of suitors the player surely hopes for.
Right-back Harrison Afful might not have been one of the more high-profile Ghana performers during this summer’s World Cup, but he was certainly one of the most effective.
Anyone who has kept an eye on the Black Stars over the last 18 months will know that the full-back’s showings in Brazil weren’t exceptional; he’s long been one of Kwesi Appiah’s most trusted performers.
Following John Paintsil’s departure from the national side after the 2013 AFCON, Afful has largely seen off the competition from Samuel Inkoom and Daniel Opare to claim the Black Stars’ right-back berth.
His impact hasn’t been limited to this position though, as the Esperance man is a versatile operator who can also thrive on the left or in a more advanced role.
He was the only Ghanaian outfield player to play in Africa, and at 28, it’s probably “now or never” if he wants to make a career in Europe.
Victor Moses finds himself in a similar boat to John Obi Mikel.
The forward needed to use the World Cup to prove to Jose Mourinho that he was an asset worth retaining at Chelsea; instead, he probably just succeeded in demonstrating to the watching world that here was a talented player in need of rescue.
Amid rumours of injury, or of a rift with manager Stephen Keshi, Moses started only Nigeria’s first and last games, being replaced in both, and not featuring in their final two group games.
His occasional foray forward and turn of pace were enough to give a fleeting glimmer of his qualities—he badly needs a new home.
James Dickenson of The Express has reported that West Bromwich Albion, Swansea City, Newcastle United, Southampton and Everton are all chasing his signature. Hope, at least.
Algerian forward Abdelmoumene Djabou isn’t the finished article. He arguably needs more prudence and pragmatism, and against Germany, he demonstrated a worrying tendency to run himself into corners or clusters of players. But here is a player who can both make a difference and get supporters excited.
He was a key offensive weapon for Algeria in their 4-2 victory over South Korea, in which he scored and also bagged a late consolation goal in the unforgettable defeat to Germany.
A move to take Djabou away from Tunis and Club Africain and on to the bright lights of Europe is surely on the horizon.
Having just signed a new long-term contract at Chelsea, it’s unlikely that Kenneth Omeruo will be transferring away soon. Having said that, however, he doesn’t look too much closer to breaking into the Blues first team, even considering the departure of David Luiz. One would suspect that John Terry, Gary Cahill, Kurt Zouma and Tomas Kalas are ahead of him in the pecking order.
Omeruo has spent the last two seasons out on loan—at ADO Den Haag and Middlesbrough—but, if his excellent performances in Brazil are anything to go by, he is surely ready to enjoy a temporary spell in a major league.
The Hull Daily Mail have acknowledged the speculation linking Omeruo to the KC Stadium, but it is thought that the defender favours a move back to Boro.
Ghana’s off-field controversies served to mask a few positive points in the Black Stars’ performance. Chief among these positives was Andre Ayew, who scored twice, against the United States and Germany.
It was something of a coming of age for the Marseille playmaker, who has too often flattered to deceive for the national side.
Hopefully, having missed the 2013 Cup of Nations due to a semiself-imposed exile from the national side, Ayew can begin to be the player Ghana fans have long been hoping for.
At the club level, Anthony Chapman of The Express has reported that both Liverpool and Manchester United are looking to tie down the versatile 24-year-old following his World Cup showing.
“With just a year left on his contract, Marseille are keen to cash in before losing him on a free transfer, and both United and Liverpool are desperate to add Ayew to their ranks, with the Ghanaian giving nothing away about his preferred destination.”
Watch this space!
Nigeria striker Emmanuel Emenike may not have recreated his marvellous Cup of Nations scoring return on the fields of Brazil, but anyone who watched the Super Eagles will have been made acutely aware of the striker’s qualities.
Often playing in a wide-right position, the Fenerbahce hitman demonstrated strength, pace, incisive running and a relentless desire to run the channels and occupy defenders.
He set up the only goal of the game in Nigeria’s victory over Bosnia-Herzegovina and tormented defender Emir Spahic for the duration of the contest.
Simon Jones of the Daily Mail has reported that he has been offered to Chelsea for £15 million, and while Bleacher Report’s own Gianni Verschueren has advised the Blues against recruiting the striker, don’t be surprised to see him move across Europe over the coming months.
All statistics in this article thanks to WhoScored.com.