The Best of Africa in the French Ligue 1

Moses Simon, November 2016 |  wikimedia commons

Moses Simon, November 2016 | wikimedia commons

The French Ligue 1 calls itself the “league of talents”. For those interested in African football, the league has always featured great names of African football. This season has seen the emergence of some more young players from the continent. We take a look at a few of them below.

Victor Osimhen – Nigeria and Lille

When Lille lost Pepe to Arsenal and Leao to AC Milan, many wondered where the goals would come from. Using a fraction of the money they received for Pepe, Lille were able to bring in 20 year old Nigerian forward Victor Osimhen from RSC Charleroi in Belgium. Osimhen, who began his career at Wolfsburg in Germany, had moved to RSC on loan in 2018 before being signed permanently in 2019. Osimhen managed 20 goals in 36 appearances for RSC, clearly showing enough potential for Lille to invest.

Of the 13 goals that  Lille have scored so far this season, Osimhen has been involved in 9 of them. 7 goals in 9 games, alongside 2 assists, have got many speaking about the young Nigerian as a future world class striker. He also managed to score against his boyhood club Chelsea in the Champions League. While Nigerian fans may be upset at missing out on Tammy Abraham to England, in Osimhen they have a brilliant talent for the future.

Osimhen is far from the usual “pace and power” player that most commentators use to describe African players. His goals have shown that despite his young age he understands where he needs to position himself in the box and general play to be effective. His speed alongside his dribbling ability is also an asset, as he can beat most defenders for pace and with skill. In the box he has shown he knows where the goal is, and has the ability to score with his head as well as with his right and left. His brace and overall performance against St Etienne at the end of August showed his ability to play with his back to goal, as well as to bring other players into the game.

If Osimhen continues to play at this level then it won’t be long before a major European club comes calling.

Moses Simon – FC Nantes and Nigeria

Another Nigerian who has impressed so far is winger Moses Simon at Nantes. On loan for the season from Levante in Spain, 24 year old Simon has scored 2 and provided 1 assist in his 7 league games this season. While these numbers may not jump off the page like Osimhen, Simon has still been impressive and the goals he scored have been important. For example he got the 86th minute winner against Nice which gave his side all three points. Nantes are currently second in the table, 3 points behind Paris Saint-Germain.

His tenacious running and skill have really impressed so far, with him being involved in the majority of chances created by Nantes. His first goal of the season against Amiens showed his intelligent movement and was a sublime finish with the outside of his right foot. While his winner against Nice may have been a simpler finish, it still required a good header and the celebration that followed was even more impressive.

Nantes have an option to buy Simon at the end of the season, which they will more than likely look to exercise should he continue to provide goals and assists. For Nigeria, Simon’s development alongside the likes of Osimhen and Chuckweuze should excite fans about the attacking talent for the Super Eagles.

Habib Diallo – Metz and Senegal

Just behind Osimhen in the scoring charts is Metz striker Habib Diallo. This has certainly been a surprise for many, as Metz have only just been promoted and some were wondering whether or not Diallo would be able to score at this level. The 24 year old Senegalese forward has 6 goals in 9 games, building on the 26 he managed in the Ligue 2 promotion campaign for Metz.

Metz have only scored 8 goals this season and are currently bottom of the table. Clearly, if they are going to have any chance to stay in the league they are going to rely on Diallo. While this may still not be enough to keep the side up, the fact that Diallo is managing to score goals for a weaker team is impressive. If he continues to find the net but Metz fail to stay up, no doubt another team in the league will look to bring him in.

Diallo’s most impressive performance came in the 3-0 win over Monaco in the middle of August. Diallo terrorised the Monaco back line with his direct running and had plenty of chances to score more than the 2 he did. His goal against Strasbourg showed his calmness and composure in front of goal, as he took a difficult pass in his stride before firing past the goalkeeper.

Eduardo Camavinga Rennes and Angola/Congo

Camavinga burst onto the scene earlier this season when he helped Rennes to a surprise victory over PSG. He dominated the midfield against players who had been playing far longer than he had. At only 16 years of age, there are high hopes that Camavinga could become an absolute superstar if he continues to develop. His performances in August against Montpellier, Strasbourg and PSG led him to be named player of the month for Ligue 1.

Born in Angola, his parents had fled Congo ending up in Angola, before moving to France. With Congolese parents and being born in Angola, Camavinga is eligible for both nations. He has lived in France since the age of two and is currently looking to gain French citizenship. It will be hard for both the DRC and Angolan national teams to prize him away from France, as if he continues to develop they will surely call him up. However, if either side is fortunate to prize him away from the French national side they will certainly have an incredibly talented player for the future and present.

It will be interesting to look back at the end of the season to see whether this was just a brief purple patch of form for all three players, or if they were able to maintain these high levels into next May.  

The views and opinions expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Best of Africa.

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