The English Premier League is the most popular, most marketed, and arguably the most demanding of Europe’s professional football leagues and there are several African players who will be hoping to make an impression this new season. They will face the type of pressure and scrutiny that they probably haven’t faced before but they will have plenty of inspiration from which to draw. African players have played a huge part in the success of the Premier League over the past 25 years, from past greats like Nwankwo Kanu (Nigeria), Didier Drogba and the Toure brothers Kolo and Yaya (all Ivory Coast) to current superstars like Riyadh Mahrez of Manchester City and Liverpool’s Mo Salah. Below are some of the newcomers from Africa this season.
Ismaila Sarr: Watford, Age 21
From Senegal, Sarr arrived in England off the back of a successful period at French club Rennes where he helped them to win the Coupe de France last season, causing a major upset against mega-rich Paris Saint Germain. That success also qualified the club for the Europa League for the 2019-20 season. He was signed by last season’s FA Cup runners-up Watford for a fee reported to be over £25 million, a record fee for the club. A natural dribbler, he should excite the fans at the Hertfordshire club with his playing style, though he will probably need to improve on his average of one goal every five games at Rennes.
Jean-Philippe Gbamin: Everton, Age 23
After highly-rated Idrissa Gueye left Everton for Paris Saint Germain in the summer, the Merseyside club were in need of a new defensive midfielder and so have turned to Jean-Philippe Gbamin, an Ivorian-born player who represented France when he was younger but is now a full international with the country of his birth. Having spent much of his childhood in France he was signed up by Lens when he was only 11 years old and went on to make nearly 100 senior appearances for the club before moving on to German outfit Mainz where he spent a further three years. Everton is an ambitious club and will see Gbamin as a long-term replacement for Gueye as they look to build a team capable of qualifying for European competition.
Moussa Djenepo: Southampton, Age 21
The Malian began his career at Bamako-based Yeelen Olympique before being snapped up by Belgian outfit Standard Liége. After 8 goals in 35 appearances, the wide-midfielder earned a move to the English south coast. Southampton struggled for much of last season but are expected to improve under coach Ralph Hasenhüttl, a coach credited with the progress of Guinean Naby Keita whilst managing RB Leipzig.
Trézéguet: Aston Villa, Age 24
Born Mahmoud Ahmed Ibrahim Hassan, Trézéguet took his nickname from the former France and Juventus forward. Having been on the books at Al Ahly from the age of 7, the Egyptian got his move to Europe via Anderlecht. However, the winger found first-team opportunities limited in Brussels due to a combination of injury, being sent out on loan to other clubs, and not being trusted by management. After a more productive spell with Turkish side Kasimpaşa, he earned a move to Aston Villa. Although a newly-promoted team, Villa are one of England’s most successful clubs with a large fanbase and he will therefore be subject to high expectations.
Marvelous Nakamba: Aston Villa, Age 25
Another recruit for the Birmingham-based club, Marvelous Nakamba is a central midfielder from Zimbabwe who moved to Europe at 18 with French side Nancy. While he only made two senior appearances there, he found more game time in the Netherlands with Vitesse Arnhem and then in Belgium for Club Brugge. Nakamba is one of three Club Brugge players to be signed by Aston Villa this summer so at least he might find it easier to settle in since he knows some of the players already. He will likely take inspiration from previous Zimbabwean imports like Liverpool legend Bruce Grobbelaar and former Coventry City player Peter Ndlovu.
Nicolas Pepe: Arsenal, Age 24
Although French-born, Pepe makes this list as he is of Ivorian descent and represents the West African nation at international level. After 35 goals in 74 games for Lille, he has been signed up by one of England’s biggest clubs. Arsenal have paid a club-record fee of £72million for the attacker and for that money he will be expected to hit the ground running. Arsenal have underachieved in recent years and are going through a transitional period after the departure of previous manager Arsène Wenger after 22 years in charge. But if he makes anything like the impact that Gabonese striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has made then the Arsenal fans will soon fall in love with him.
Featured image | Nicolas Pepe in the shirt of Lille OSC during the match against Olympique Marseille on Friday, January 26, 2019 | wikimedia commons
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.
Do you find this topic interesting? Why not contribute to our website?