The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is ravaging African football, as clubs across the continent struggle to stay afloat. Their prized assets have become easy targets for European clubs to pounce on, and with no end to the crisis in sight, a player exodus looms. Here are five players playing in Africa who are ready for a move to Europe.
1. Jackson Muleka
Club: TP Mazembe
When Jackson Muleka stepped up to take the penalty against Raja in the second leg of the CAF Champions League quarterfinals, one he would subsequently miss, it was a tragic end to a fantastic campaign. His 7 goals had propelled his team to the latter rounds of the competition, composing 58% of TP Mazembe’s goals in the tournament.
A young, lethal fox in the box, Muleka’s services are in high demand, with both Al-Ahly and newly promoted RC Lens eyeing him to beef up their attack. The Congolese striker’s small frame hides an explosiveness and upper body strength that can destabilize defenders 10 years his senior, and at just 20 years old, it’s only a matter of time before he gets a move abroad.
An academy product of TP Mazembe, he reminds the Lumumbashi faithful of Mbwana Samatta, who terrorized defences before leaving for Genk in 2016. Muleka has smashed Samatta’s goal record in two fewer seasons, hitting 60 goals in the last 24 months.
2. Austin Oladapo
Since joining from Gombe United on a free transfer in 2017, Austin Oladapo has emerged as a key performer on the right side of Enyimba’s midfield trio. He is adept at drifting in between the lines, winning fouls, and advancing possession, and his 3.9 accurate long passes per game rank him amongst fourth amongst midfielders in Nigeria’s first division.
Oladapo is the only other midfielder who has made the Nigerian Professional Football League Team of the Week on multiple occasions this season, the other being his teammate Stanley Dimgba. He is a restless worker who has a penchant for scoring a belter, as evidenced from his three goals this season.
Amongst Oladapo’s 5 goals in the league this season, all have come from outside the box. He is the most versatile midfielder in manager Fatai Osho’s machine; while he complements Cyril Olisema’s vision and Farouk Mohammed’s tackling, he also combines the former’s passing range and the latter’s tenacity.
3. Badredinne Souyad
Club: JS Kabylie
Despite being eliminated in the CAF Champions League group stage, JSK Kabylie’s Badredinne Souyad made a name for himself as a padlock in the heart of defense, impressing both at center back and defensive midfielder. The Algerian averaged the most interceptions per game in the group stage with 3.0, whilst ranking seventh in clearances per game with 5.0. When things get ugly, he’s up to the task to put out the danger, but he doesn’t overdo it — he has never picked up a sending-off during his time in Tizi Ouzou.
He has featured in all but four games for the Canaries, an ever-present in defense. He isn’t all brawn though; he can spread the ball with pinpoint long balls and manifests his impeccable timing to make game-changing interceptions and tackles. As the reigning AFCON champions look to strengthen their side ahead of World Cup qualifications, Souyad could win a starting spot in the Desert Foxes’s defense next to Aïssa Mandi.
4. Kwame Bonsu
Club: Espérance Sportive de Tunis
Following in the footsteps of his compatriots Michael Essien and Thomas Partey, Kwame Bonsu has built a reputation for himself as Ghana’s next top midfield star. He left his homeland at 18 years old for Sweden, where he would bounce from FC Rosengård to Mjällby AIF to Gefle IF, before returning home in 2018.
He departed Ghana last year for Tunisian side Espérance Sportive de Tunis, where he has since made a name for himself as one of the top midfielders in West Africa.
Bonsu is a press-resistant player who can shrug off opponents with his trademark upper body feints and turns, and his assured approach in winning physical duels makes him a player who can play a supporting role for the Black Stars in the coming years. While he needs to improve his passing to get his second international call-up, Bonsu is a promising player who is banging the drum for another move to Europe.
5. Abdelraouf Benguit
Club: Espérance Sportive de Tunis
A versatile performer who has turned into a key player for Espérance, Abdelraouf Benguit can play as a defensive midfielder, central midfielder and right back. In the CAF Super Cup loss to Zamalek, he ruled the roost from midfield, while also drifting to right back to keep things ticking in possession. He is Algeria’s answer to Joshua Kimmich, a superb passer who can do a job in midfield or on the right side of defense.
He is rarely dribbled past and is adept at winning fouls, suffering 1.7 fouls per fixture, and according to SofaScore, Benguit was statistically the third best player in the CAF Champions League in 2019/20.
By: Tosin Holmes