By the time you’re reading this article, the opening game of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) between Ivory Coast and Guinea-Bissau has most likely taken place.
Whilst Sebastien Haller is likely to be the talisman for Ivory Coast during this tournament, the rest of their squad does have a distinct Premier League feel to it. Or to be more specific, a distinct Nottingham Forest feel.
It’s not just The Elephants though who are relying on stars plying their trade in the Premier League to guide them through the tournament. There are plenty of other nations with players who are taking a break from England’s top flight to help their fellow countrymen dream of continental success this month.
In this article we take a look at some of the most high-profile Premier League players who will be on show at AFCON, read on to find out who they are…
At the time of writing Liverpool are top of the Premier League table, 3 points ahead of the nearest challengers and 5 points ahead of Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. Yet Jurgen Klopp’s men are not the favourites in the Premier League odds to win the title.
There is of course, a large part of that that will be down to Manchester City’s track record of winning 15+ games in a row in the second half of a season to destroy their title rivals. Yet there is another reason why Liverpool aren’t considered the favourites and that’s because of where Mo Salah is right now.
Instead of firing his team to domestic success in England he is looking to guide his country to the AFCON final. Judging by the odds though, Salah could have an uphill struggle doing that and could well find himself back on Merseyside earlier than expected.
If you’re a Manchester United fan reading this article you probably aren’t too worried about the fact that Andre Onana is heading off to AFCON. To say that the Cameroonian hasn’t hit the ground running since his summer move to Old Trafford would be somewhat of an understatement.
High profile mistake has followed high profile mistake during a turbulent first 6 months in England and Onana will be hoping he can put all of that behind him when he pulls on his national team’s jersey at AFCON.
The former Ajax ‘keeper will have the added pressure of returning as the prodigal son after his high profile falling out with manager Rigobert Song at the 2022 World Cup. Good luck Andre…
Chelsea don’t have a good track record when it comes to signing strikers, not since their high profile takeover by Roman Abramovich in 2003 anyway.
Whilst Nicolas Jackson has undoubtedly had a tough time in front of goal since moving to Stamford Bridge he can look back at the metaphorical graves of great strikers like Fernando Torres, Gonzalo Higuain, Romelu Lukaku, Andriy Shevchenko and Hernan Crespo and think that his struggles at Chelsea probably say more about the club than himself.
Regardless of that, Jackson will be hoping to have some fun and regain his goal scoring touch when he links up with his Senegalese teammates.
Pape Matar Sarr
Another Senegalese star based in the Premier League is Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Pape Matar Sarr who has being a key player in the North London club’s revival this season under Ange Postecoglou.
The 21-year-old has played in 18 of Spurs league games thus far this season chipping in with a couple of goals and assists. He will be hoping to perform well during AFCON so that he can further cement his place in Postecoglou’s starting XI when he returns to London.
In 2018 lifelong West Ham fan Paul Colborne invaded the pitch during a game and planted the corner flag in the centre circle. He had quite simply had enough. His club was in tatters and the board’s recent decision to reappoint David Moyes as manager was symptomatic of that.
Five and a half years on from that Moyes has guided West Ham to their first major European title and has them sitting just outside the Champions League qualification spots in the Premier League.
Anyway, a potential spanner in the works to West Ham’s dreams of Champions League football is the loss of four players to AFCON. One player in particular though is going to leave a large hole in the Hammers squad and that’s Mohamed Kudus.
Since joining from Ajax in the summer, the Ghanaian has become a key player in Moyes’ squad. Paul Colborne will certainly be hoping that Kudus isn’t away for too long, as will the person in charge of the corner flags at the London Stadium…