Tuesday Aug 06, 2019. 15:00
Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah’s success with Liverpool in the Champions League last season provided Africa with the sporting heroes they have been searching for since the halcyon days of Didier Drogba and Samuel Eto’o.
The Egyptian and Senegalese were among the catalysts for Liverpool’s rollercoaster ride to the top of the European pile, even if they could not also annex the Premier League title at the same time.
The two have become the poster boys for African football and idols across the continent, but while Drogba and Eto’o kept up similar status for almost a decade, the position of the Liverpool pair is under immediate theat.
This season there are at least three players who could challenge them and take over as the best African in the top flight of English football, which gets underway this coming weekend.
Africanfootball.com looks at the other Africans who could be key in the Premier league this season
Riyad Mahrez (Manchester City): Mahrez already stole a march on both Salah and Sane by emerging from the Africa Cup of Nations with a winners’ medal as he played a talisman’s role in leading Algeria to the title.
At Man City, Mahrez must still bed down a regular place but with success in Egypt fresh in his legs he could begin to realise the potential he showed when he helped Leicester City to their surprise title in 2016.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal): The French-born Gabon international was a consummate goalscorer during his Bundesliga days and hisreturn at Arsenal has not been too bad either. His first full season with Gunners delivered 22 league goals and eight more in the Europa League, where they were runners-up.
Now the 30-year-old Aubameyang is at the peak of his powers and ready to blast in the goals again – if the weekend effort he netted in the friendly against Barcelona is anything to go by.
Nicolas Pepe (Arsenal): Much is expected of the Ivory Coast international after his record move from Lille. Last season he was the top African performer in Ligue 1 where the goals poured in.
Now he moves up to a bigger stage, needing to put a disappointing Africa Cup of Nations behind him if he is to get off to a bright start. It might be a few weeks before he gets his debut, however, having missed much of their pre-season.
Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace): A measure of Zaha’s reputation in the Premier League is the feverish efforts of Everton to sign him before Thursday’s transfer deadline. The tricky winger is a former England international but has since thrown in his international future with the Elephants of the Ivory Coast.
Jordan Ayew (Crystal Palace): Frustrating enigmatic, the 27-year-old Ayew has long been a player of enormous potential but often at times his skills are not matched by his decision making.
The Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt emphasises how vital he can be, and what an influence he can have, and having gone back to Palace from Swansea City, this is his chance to begin to realise his undoubted ability.