With all the problems the Africa Cup of Nations has caused Premiership managers recently, you’d think Harry Redknapp and friends would swear off signing African talent for good. You’d be wrong. Though Premiership managers enjoy a little moan every time the tournament rolls around, they enjoy signing reasonably priced Africans a lot, lot more. So when the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations gets underway on Sunday, you can guarantee the scouts will be out. But because World Cup Blog couldn’t wait until the end of the tournament, they’ve already done some of the scouts work and passed it on to us. Here are five players tipped to stand out at the Africa Cup of Nations, and which Premiership club they’d be ideally suited to.
Abdul Kader Keïta (Ivory Coast and Lyon)
The 26-year-old can play as a striker or a right winger and possesses the sort of pace that makes left backs cry. Has a build and direct, determined dribbling style that’s reminiscent of a certain Cristiano Ronaldo. Keïta has been giving Ligue 1 defenders bad dreams for the last few years, first with Lille and now with Lyon, but plays the type of game that would go down well in the Premiership.
Ideal signing for: Liverpool. Rafa Benitez needs the type of pace and penetration that Keïta can offer, the type of pace and penetration that could turn some of those frustrating draws into billionaire-owner-pleasing wins. Then he could finally jettison Jermaine Pennant and play a proper attacking game with Ryan Babel down one wing and Keïta down the other.
André “Dede” Ayew (Ghana and Marseille)
The 18-year-old left midfielder recently signed a long-term deal at Marseille and was then called up by Ghana for Africa Cup of Nations duty. The young lad’s got proper footballing genes too. His dad is none other than Marseille and Ghana legend Abédi “Pelé” Ayew, who was obscenely talented enough to make Marseille teammate Chris Waddle look like Stuart Ripley in comparison. But this isn’t a kid living on his father’s name, like Paul Dalglish or Jordi Cruyff. Arsene Wenger is a shrewd judge, and apparently he’s interested in Ayew’s signature.
Ideal signing for: Arsenal. There’s probably no one better at molding young French or African talent than Arsene Wenger, and André “Dede” Ayew checks all those boxes. He’s young, French (born there) African (Ghanaian dad) and talented. And rumour has it he loves the Carling Cup too.
Yassine Chikhaoui (Tunisia and FC Zurich)
Seems like every player who can do a decent step-over is the new Zinedine Zidane these days. But Chikhaoui has a more realistic claim on that crown because he has that extra something special. He can do all the technical tricks, spinning around and what not, but combines a genuine unpredictability with end product. Get a look at this. The 21 year old has made an impressive start to life in Europe, scoring seven times in 16 appearances for FC Zurich. Now it’s time he moved to a real league.
Ideal signing for: Chelsea or Newcastle. Chikhaoui’s ability to play as either a striker or an attacking mid means he could be the ideal man to partner Anelka next season if Drogba makes good on his promise to up and leave. And if Kevin Keegan is serious about bringing back attacking football to Newcastle, then Chickhaoui could be the Tunisian Peter Beardsley, if such a thing exists. Only problem is that the likes of Bayern Munich are already having a look, so Wor Kev would need to use all his legendary motivational powers (and a good chunk of Mike Ashley’s money) to get Chikhaoui to St. James’s Park.
Pascal Feindouno (Guinea, St. Etienne)
This 26-year-old is a serious talent. A playmaker in the Jay-Jay Okocha sense, he’s capable of opening up defences with a nice little dribble but equally capable of bypassing defences altogether with his absolute cannon of a right peg. He’s also currently unhappy at St. Etienne, mostly because his teammates are useless, so Feindouno could use the Africa Cup of Nations as a bit of a shop window.
Ideal signing for: Newcastle. If Yassine Chikhaoui is out of reach then Pascal Feindouno could be the next Geordie folk hero in waiting. Feindouno’s got more creative in his little toe than Alan Smith, Nicky Butt and Joey Barton have in all 30 of theirs combined, so he’d be the ideal man to help King Kev bring back the days of glorious 4-3 defeats. His current state of St. Etienne unsettlement should also make it easy to pry him away.
Amine Chermiti (Tunisia, Étoile du Sahel)
This 19-year-old striker is a bit like the Tunisian Wayne Rooney. Bags of skill, unstoppable determination and a bit of a temper. All he’s missing is a rubbish haircut and a WAG. If you saw the Club World Cup last month you’ll have spotted Chermiti playing for Étoile du Sahel. He impressed everyone in the third-place playoff game when he nutmegged a defender, got shoved to the ground, got straight back up, and then slide tackled the opposition keeper for a well earned goal. His disciplinary problems saw him sent off in Tunisia’s final Africa Cup of Nations qualifier, so he’ll be suspended for the first two games of the tournament.
Ideal signing for: Manchester City. Sven still desperately needs a striker upgrade at Eastlands. Elano Blumer can only take the team so far on his own, and even if things go well this year no one wants to see Darius Vassell playing in the Champions League. If the ice cool Swede could calm Chermiti’s temper, the Tunisian would be the answer to Sven’s problems.
For in-depth coverage of everything that happens at Ghana 2008, you could do a lot worse than visit Africa Cup of Nations at World Cup Blog.