The quality of the African Cup of Nations may not parallel that of the European Championship or the Copa America just yet, but with so many stars from the continent now plying their trade in Europe, there’s still plenty of interesting talent on display.
So with the tournament finally drawing to a close, the Ivory Coast lifting the trophy after goalkeeper Boubacar Barry scored the winner in a 9-8 penalty shoot-out, Football Fancast have decided to take a look at some of it’s stand-out performers.
Or more specifically, the AFCON stars that could do a job for Premier League side Tottenham, who are expected to have a bit of an overhaul this summer and remodel their squad closer to Mauricio Pochettino’s hard-working, high-intensity image.
So without further ado, here’s the FIVE African Cup of Nations stars that could improve Spurs.
Ghana star Andre Ayew finished the African Cup of Nations with the joint-most goals of any player, three, the second-most assists, two, and from the perspective of any potential suitor, strikes a perfect equilibrium between age, quality, price-tag and availability.
In fact, the Marseille winger-forward, who boasts 53 goals in 181 appearances for the Ligue 1 title challengers, will be available for free this summer unless he pens new terms between now and May.
A powerful and versatile attacker however, blessed with unusual dominance in the air for a 5 foot 9 forward, there’s plenty of interest in the 25 year-old right now – his prominent AFCON performances only increasing appeal. According to Inside Futbol, Liverpool, Everton, Newcastle and Borussia Dortmund are keen to offer him a pre-contract deal.
Another African Cup of Nations winger-forward that should be attracting Tottenham’s transfer attention is Gabon international Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, currently contracted to Borussia Dortmund, who finished the tournament with one goal and five chances created in three appearances.
The 25 year-old, once dubbed ‘The African Neymar’ for his blend of skill, pace and netting prowess, boasts healthy returns of 29 goals in 76 appearances for the Black-Yellows – including 13 in 27 this season – and 41 strikes in 96 outings for former club St.Etienne, where he originally rose to continental acclaim.
With Dortmund currently rock bottom of the Bundesliga table however, stars like Aubameyang could exodus Westfalen at the end of the campaign if they slump into the German second tier. Even if they don’t, drastic changes to the squad are likely to be made and the Gabon forward could be fingered as a scapegoat for the club’s poor form.
Should that be the case, Tottenham would be wise to pounce on the former Ligue 1 star. According to summer reports from The Express, his release clause is currently set at just £6million.
Chancel Mbemba Mangulu, dubbed ‘the next Vincent Kompany’ for his similarly imposing physique and ability to play anywhere down the spine, was highlighted by The Guardian as one of the stand-out players at this year’s African Cup of Nations.
He may be just 20 years of age but the Congo centre-back-come-midfielder has already produced some impressive performances at the highest level of the game, averaging an impressive 2.5 tackles, 3.3 interceptions and 1.7 successful dribbles per match in six Champions League outings for Anderlecht earlier this term, in addition to 3.5 tackles per match during his AFCON appearances.
He’s still young and raw, but already looks well equipped physically for the Premier League. Although Mbemba may not be ready for a regular starting role at White Hart Lane, he would be a promising, long-term addition to Tottenham’s squad.
He’s another African star on the Newcastle radar however according to Winner Sports, who also rate the Congo prospect at around £6million, so competition for his signature should be expected.
Despite the recent heroics of Harry Kane, Tottenham’s forward line lacks depth in terms of dependable goalscorers, and one African-Cup-of-Nations-inspired answer comes in the form of Schalke’s Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting.
Although he failed to score at the tournament as his country plummeted out of the group stages without a win, the Cameroon international has been in lethal form domestically this term, amassing nine goals and four assists in 20 Bundesliga outings, whilst also averaging 1.7 tackles, 3 aerial duels and 4.1 successful dribbles per match.
He can operate on either flank or as a No.10, but the 25 year-old’s impact is best felt as an out-and-out centre-forward, where he can bully defenders with his powerful 6 foot 3 frame or leave their legs in knots via his uniquely direct dribbling style.
Choupo-Moting only moved to the Veltins Arena last summer, so Schalke are under no obligation to sell. But having signed him from Mainz on a free contract, where he’d scored 20 times in 74 league outings, a decent profit around the £5million-£10million mark could convince them to sell.
Afriyie Acquah’s domestic form hasn’t been the best this year. In fact, Whoscored.com have awarded him a rating of just 6.35 from his 14 appearances for Serie A strugglers Parma, who are currently bottom of the Italian table.
Interestingly however, when deployed in his natural position of defensive midfield, his Whoscored rating jumps up considerably to 7.2, and it wasn’t long ago the Ghana enforcer was linked with a move to Arsenal, with some comparing him to Michael Essien.
He produced a string of strong performances at AFCON 2015 too, averaging an impressive 2.3 tackles and 1.7 interceptions per match.
With Paulinho, Moussa Dembele and Etienne Capoue all struggling for game-time since Mauricio Pochettino’s summer arrival at White Hart Lane, we could see a drastic overhaul of their midfield personnel at the end of the campaign – aged just 23, strong, mobile and laden with potential, Acquah could be worth the punt.
Parent club Hoffenheim are yet to issue him a Bundesliga start, despite officially signing him 18 months ago. So logic suggests they would be prepared to sell.