Six of the best African youngsters

On his debut for Sandals For Goalposts, Surya Solanki takes a look at six of the best African youngsters.

Tunisian tormentor Youssef Msakni in full flight.

In all fairness, Africa has often been underrated in terms of producing and rearing world-class players. Only a small percentage of football fans actually acknowledge the continent as a virtually the best talent producer after South America and, of course, Europe. These fans often overlook the plethora of successful players reared by Africa over the past years. Ivory Coast’s Didier Drogba was the backbone of Chelsea’s attack for several years, eventually leading the club to a historic Champions League. Drogba’s former Blues teammate, Ghana’s Michael Essien, who has seen a spiral downward in his career over the past 12 months or so due to various fitness issues, can still be considered as one of the best modern-day defensive midfielders to have ever graced the football pitch. Cameroon’s Samuel Eto’o has been one of the prime reasons for FC Barcelona’s rise to footballing greatness. There have been several other equally talented and successful stars like Seydou Keita, Nwankwo Kanu and Mahamadou Diarra, who were one of the world’s finest in their respective positions during their primes.

Presently, we have the likes of Yaya Toure, Cheick Tiote, Emmanuel Adebayor, Alex Song and Younes Belhanda enjoying tremendous success with their respective clubs and helping Africa to establish itself as one the mainstream footballing continents in the world.

Without further ado, let’s have a look at six budding young African players with a bright future ahead of them.

1. Emmanuel Mayuka (Southampton and Zambia)

Emmanuel Mayuka is a 21-year-old Zambia international, playing club football for Southampton.

The striker was bought by the newly-promoted English club in the summer transfer window after two highly successful seasons with Young Boys, during which he scored 32 goals for the Swiss club in just 55 appearances. Mayuka also starred in his nation’s impressive African Cup of Nation’s campaign and ended the tournament as the joint-highest goalscorer with three strikes to his name.

Even though Mayuka is a relatively unknown personality in the world of European football, his transfer to Southampton could help him establish himself as one of the best young poachers in world football.

Yes, there might be some doubts with respect to whether the lad possess the required strength and agility to be play in the Premier League, his lightning-fast pace and world-class finishing abilities could help him compensate for the lack of physicality in his play and flourish in world’s most elite league.

2. Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu (Udinese and Ghana)

More famous for his wonder goal against Guinea in the 2012 African Cup of Nations, Agyemang-Badu is a robust defensive midfielder, currently plying his trade at Serie A club Udinese.

Unlike most defensive midfielders, Badu is relatively more versatile and creative and can contribute heavily towards both the team’s attack and defence. In fact, Badu can quite easily operate as the fundamental link between the defence and the attack.

The 21-year-old can break up plays, provide neat passes to teammates and launch attacks from midfield. His tackling is somewhat harsh but an important aspect of his game.

However, as his performances on the club stage suggest, Badu is very inconsistent and many a times is just a spectator during the games.  The youngster still has plenty of room for improvement and needs to work on his consistency in order to attain the same levels of success the likes of Yaya Tour and Check Tiote have had.

3. Emmanuel Mbola (FC Porto and Zambia)

Emmanuel Mbola created history when he represented Zambia at the 2010 African Cup of Nations as a 16-year-old, becoming the second youngest player ever play in the competition.

The now 19-year-old’s historic feat and subsequent standout performances for his nation earned him international recognition and attracted interest from Premier League clubs Tottenham Hotspurs and Arsenal. Even though the two North London club were apparently ‘very keen’ on signing the highly rated teenager, no actual and concrete offer was made for the player by either of the two North London rivals.

Mbola is typical left-back with lethal speed, ability to shut down any attack in a matter of seconds and a habit of venturing forward to supplement the attack. Unlike Mayuka, the former Zanaco star has a strong physique and should have no problems in playing in the demanding European leagues.

Currently on loan to FC Porto, Mbola is surely an incredible talent who can go on to become one of the finest full-backs in world football in the future.

4. Christian Atsu Twasam (FC Porto and Ghana)

Another African player who has been linked with a move to Tottenham Hotspurs in the past is Christian Atsu.

The latter is a currently Mbola’s teammate at FC Porto and spent the last season on loan Rio Ave, scoring six times for during his one-year stint.

Atsu primarily operates a left winger and even though his dribbling skills can improve, the youngster is menace on the left side of the pitch due to his pace and high work ethic.

The 20-year-old can easily get behind the defensive line, pick out teammates with and genuinely threaten the opposition in the final third of the pitch. Andre-Villa Boas was apparently mulling over a bid for Atsu in order to strengthen his options on the wing. However, the former Chelsea manager decided to aim for Shaktar’s Willian instead.

5. Youssef Msakni (Esperance and Tunisia)

Youssef Msakni is a Tunisia international, who will join Qatari club Lekhwiya SC on 1st January 2013.

Msakni is a highly versatile player who can play all long the attacking line. The 20-year-old virtually holds all the skills to become a fierce and dominant attacker in world football- intricate skills, pace in abundance, clever eye for the goal and decent heading aptitude.

Hence, it’s no surprise that the player was on the transfer short-list of various big clubs like PSG, Arsenal and Lille, but money bettered the lad’s desire for success as Msakni chose to sign a lucrative deal with Lekhwiya SC instead.

6. Victor Wanyama (Celtic and Kenya)

I end my list with perhaps another player who has been of great interest to the Premier League.

Victor Wanyama was heavily linked with the likes of Manchester City, Manchester United and Arsenal over the summer after his clinical yet unfashionable season with Scottish champions Celtic.

The 21-year-old has flourished in his defensive midfield role for Neil Lennon’s side, adding mobility and stability to the midfield, protecting the back four and controlling the game with his calm and patient approach.

Billed as the ‘next Yaya Toure’, Wanyama can be easily regarded as Kenya’s best player right now and with Celtic qualifying for the Champions League, football fans could finally be provided with the opportunity to see the dynamic midfielder showcasing his talents on the world’s biggest stage.

You can follow Surya on Twitter.

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