Monday,19 March, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1153, 20 - 26 June 2013
Monday,19 March, 2018
Issue 1153, 20 - 26 June 2013

Ahram Weekly

Soccer on the side: Close to reaching stardom

Marwan Zayed profiles six of the best African youngsters in 2012/2013

Al-Ahram Weekly

Christian Atsu: Atsu is a Ghanaian who plays mainly as a left winger for Portuguese champions FC Porto. Atsu spent the 2011/2012 season on loan at Rio Ave where he caught the eye of football scouts all over Europe. At Rio Ave, the 19 year old scored six goals and assisted another five in 30 games. He returned to Porto the following year where he made 28 appearances scoring only one goal which came in the league in addition to five assists in all competitions. No doubt that his goal scoring record at Porto is far from being impressive but Atsu’s game is not about scoring goals as the kid is known for his frightening speed and amazing skills. Tormenting defenders and causing havoc to opponents is Atsu’s main strength. He may have to improve his goals and assists tally in the future but anyone who watched Atsu playing can easily tell that the young boy is destined for greatness. Liverpool and Tottenham are already battling for his signature but it remains to be seen if Porto will agree to sell their young gem.

Victor Wanyama: The Kenyan has already made a name for himself in Europe after hugely successful back-to-back seasons with Celtic. Wanyama’s rise in European football was so obvious last season as he took the Champions League by storm scoring two goals and assisting another four. Wanyama is a box to box midfielder who’s excellent at holding up the ball with his strength and power and is known to be a great tackler. His calmness on the ball is eye catching as well which gives him the opportunity to dictate games. The 21-year-old scored nine goals and set up another 12 in all competition last season which is unbelievable for one so young. The versatile Kenyan who can also play in defence quickly became a fans favourite at Celtic. Manchester United and Arsenal are keen on signing Wanyama but Celtic are trying to convince him to stay for at least another season.

Pierre Emerick Aubameyang: The Saint Etienne and Gabon striker was simply one of the hottest African properties in Europe last season. The 23-year-old star took French football by storm last season as he was chosen the second best player in the league behind Ibrahimovic after scoring 21 goals in 44 games in the league and cup. Aubameyang also finished second in the top scorers chart behind Ibrahimovic with 19 goals in 37 appearances. In addition to his goals, Aubameyang set up another impressive 14 goals in the league and cup which showed he’s a great team player as well. This week, Saint Etienne claimed that more the six clubs made inquiries about the player including money bags Monaco and AC Milan, his former club.

Andre Ayew: Ayew is another Ghanaian sensation who plies his trade in France with French Giants Marseille. The 23-year-old has been playing in France for six years now for Lorient and Aries Avignon in addition to his current team Marseille. After two hugely impressive seasons with the club Ayew was given the number 10 shirt in 2012/2013 season in addition to a free role on the pitch. Ayew’s new free role inspired him in a big way as he played which much more freedom, scoring 13 goals and setting up seven in 45 games. In his three seasons at Marseille Ayew scored 13 goals in his first season, 16 in the second and 13 in the third which shows his consistency and eye for goal. Ayew plays mainly as a left or right winger and is wanted by Arsenal’s manager Arsene Wenger.  

Lacina Traore: A 23-year-old Ivorian striker who plays for Russian money bags Anzhi. The Ivorian star moved to Anzhi at the beginning of 2012/2013 season to play alongside the African mega star Samuel Eto’o. Traore largely exceeded expectations at his new clubs as he scored goals for fun in the league and the Europa League where he caught the eye with some incredible goals. Traore scored 16 goals in 34 appearances in all competitions with 11 of them in the league and five in the Europa League. The Ivorian striker scored the same number of goals as the Cameroonian legend which showed his potential. His goals in Europe attracted football scouts as he has been linked with moves to England and Germany. However, it’s unlikely that the club will allow their star to leave after just one season at the club.

Mohamed Salah: Finally on the list is our soon to be superstar Mohamed Salah. Salah simply had an incredible year at Basel. Salah, alongside another Egyptian star in the form of Al-Nenni, managed to clinch the league title in the last game of the season with Salah scoring five goals in the league and setting up another 10 including penalties he won. As for the Europa League, Salah was the star of Basel throughout the competition as Basel lost in the semi-final against English giants Chelsea who won the tournament at the end. Salah stole the headlines in most of the big games of the competition as he scored two goals, the first coming against Tottenham Hotspur and the second against Chelsea plus assisting the two goals against Zenit in the quarter-finals. Salah added another two goals in the cup to take his tally for the season to nine goals and an incredible 17 assists in just 24 starts and 20 cameos which is more than great given that this was the first season for the 20-year-old in Europe. What will please Salah most apart from winning the league and reaching the semis in the Europa League is being chosen as one of the best three young prospects in the Europa League this season which is simply an unbelievable achievement for the terrific young Egyptian. Apart from his impressive showing with his club, Salah has shown incredible maturity when it comes to the national team as he notched a very impressive hat-trick against Zimbabwe in Egypt’s fourth game in the World Cup qualifiers and scored the only goal of the game in the fifth game against Mozambique which took his tally to 13 goals and nine assists in only 21 appearances with the national team. The win clinched a place for Egypt in the final stage of the qualifiers. If Salah can maintain his current form, there is no doubt he will be one of the best players in Europe sooner rather than later.

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