FEATURE: Top Five young Africans to look out for in Europe this season
With the financial disparity between European and African football becoming bigger with each passing year, more and more African talents are leaving for Europe. In this piece, we will be breaking down five of the most promising under-21 Africans to keep an eye on in the 2018-19 season.
Musa Barrow – Gambia – Atalanta – Forward
The first player being covered is Gambia’s big hope Musa Barrow. The 19 year old made his breakthrough last season after netting 23 goals in 18 appearances in Italy’s ‘Primavera’ youth league as the star man in an illustrious Atalanta academy. Barrow also spearheads a bright crop of young Gambian prospects as they seem to be headed into a potential golden generation, which features the likes of Omar Colley (Sampdoria), Hamza Barry (Hajduk Split), Bubacarr Sanneh (Anderlecht) and Bubacarr ‘Steve’ Trawally (Guizhou Hengfeng).
When Barrow burst onto the scene he impressed with his performances against Lazio and Inter in particular. His style of play was largely reliant on his movement and using his long strides for quick runs in behind the defence, as well as his accurate finishing with his right foot which normally favour placement over power. While Barrow has not got off to quite as much of a scintillating start this season, he has found himself in a new role on the left wing following the arrival of Duvan Zapata and that has led to him adding a lot to the creative side of his game even if it has slightly sacrificed some of his goal threat.
‘Musa Barrow, el tesoro gambiano’
Tras lucirse con la Primavera, el joven delantero está teniendo un impacto tremendo en Serie A. Más allá de su olfato de gol, la enésima gran promesa de la #Atalanta luce por sus movimientos y apoyos fuera del área.
— Joel Sierra (@_JoelSierra_) May 2, 2018
Noussair Mazraoui – Morocco – Ajax – Right Back
While he is born and raised in the Netherlands, Noussair Mazraoui has recently followed in the footsteps of his club teammate Hakim Ziyech in switching allegiances to play for Morocco. Mazraoui is one of many young prospects at an Ajax side who have shown they can compete with the big shots in their trip to Bavaria to face Bayern Munich. His nationality and position has drawn comparisons to another Ajax right back from the mid 2000s in Tunisia legend Hatem Trabelsi.
As a player, Mazraoui is part of a recent trend of central midfielders being converted to right backs rather than the historically prevalent wingers or centre backs moving there. As a result, he has a tendancy to cut inside deep in the pitch to offer support for the more defensive midfielders such as Eiting and Schone. Mazraoui has the physique of a long distance runner and the tireless energy to match, and also showed that he has an eye for goal in the Champions League, and he is an intelligent full back who uses his positioning and mental attributes more than his technical ability. A top player who can be compared to Mazraoui is Joshua Kimmich, due to the midfielder attributes being applied at full back.
Patson Daka – Zambia – Red Bull Salzburg – Forward
In 2017, Red Bull Salzburg shocked European football when they won the UEFA Youth League beating Paris Saint Germain, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Benfica in the process. Up front in that side was Patson Daka – a Zambian international who would later go on to win CAF Young Player of the Year. As Salzburg, like the other Red Bull clubs, have a policy of promoting youth to the senior team, Daka has joined the likes of Haidara and Wolf in going on to play for the senior team and he is starting to make a name for himself. Daka was also a key part of Zambia’s U20 AFCON winning side which went on to reach the quarter finals before losing to Italy, so it seems that he is in extremely good company among his peers at both club and national level.
— Sky Sport Austria (@SkySportAustria) August 25, 2018
Daka uses his rapid speed to it’s full potential as his greatest asset. At Salzburg, they play in a diamond with a front two and as a result he often drifts off onto the right wing to beat defenders with his speed and dribbling prowess. He is not the most prolific goalscorer, but it is clear that he adds a lot to the team in terms of speed on the counter and 1v1 ability. While Daka has had some injury troubles early on in this season, he has recently returned and will hope to make an impact in their tough Europa League group alongside RB Leipzig, Celtic and Rosenborg.
Ibrahim Sangare – Ivory Coast – Toulouse – Central Midfielder
In the great Ivory Coast teams of the last 15 years there has never been a shortage of quality central midfielders. From Yaya Toure to Romaric and from Didier Zokora to the late Cheick Tiote, the giants of the continent have always been strong in the centre of the park. While Franck Kessie is the face of the younger generation, there has been another Ivorian making a name for himself in the form of Toulouse’s Ibrahim Sangare.
Ibrahim Sangare has scored his first ever Ligue 1 goal with a fine finish pic.twitter.com/YKYkcHGbK3
— Goal (@goal) February 24, 2018
When you look at Sangare’s big frame, you’d expect him to be a midfield destroyer who relies on his physicality. This could not be further from the truth, however, as he is extremely technically gifted for a man of his size. He is more of a box to box than a holding midfielder, however his ability to retain possession using his gangly legs and superb technical dribbling is similar to that of Sergio Busquets. Sangare is more defensive than attacking and looking forward in his career he will either look to add to the attacking side of his game or commit to being a more out and out defensive midfielder.
Christian Kouame – Ivory Coast – Genoa – Forward
While all of the attention at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris is on Polish goal machine Kryzsztof Piatek, a large portion of his success has been down to the work of his strike partner Kouame. The second Ivorian in this piece has quietly impressed so far after working his way up the Italian football pyramid with the likes of Prato, Cittadella and even a spell at Inter Primavera.
The clearest facet of Kouame’s game is his pace and strength, which comes in particularly useful as Genoa are normally on the back foot so have to counter quickly. He single handedly provides a lot of Genoa’s width as he covers the channels on both sides, although he seems to favour being on the left.
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