The month of January presents the start of the “second half” of the Premier League season, but also presents many a club with the headaches of losing players to the African Cup of Nations.
The tournament, which takes place every two years and is now heading for its 31st edition, features 16 of Africa’s best teams battling it out to become the champions of the continent, the current of which are the Ivory Coast after their win in 2015.
If you’ve ever watched the tournament then you’ll have noticed that is is actually a very entertaining one at times, and has seen many different countries win the trophy over the years, with Egypt winning it the most times out of any of those (7), then Cameroon and Ghana (4 each). It’s also given viewers from all over the globe the chance to watch some of the continent’s top stars down the years such as Didier Drogba, Samuel Eto’o, Michael Essien and Freddy Kanoute.
However, on the other hand the tournament can be a real pain in the neck for clubs in England as they face the possibility of having to go up to 3/4 weeks without some of their top stars featuring for them as they have to represent their countries instead.
So which clubs will be hit the hardest and who’s off to the tournament this year? Check out the list below:
GABON – Didier NDong (Sunderland).
CAMEROON – None.
GUINEA-BISSAU – None.
BURKINA FASO – None.
ALGERIA – Riyad Mahrez, Islam Slimani (Both Leicester) and Adlene Guedioura (Watford).
SENEGAL – Idrissa Gueye (Everton), Sadio Mane (Liverpool), Mame Diouf (Stoke) and Cheikhou Kouyate (West Ham).
ZIMBABWE – None.
TUNISIA – Wahbi Khazri (Sunderland).
IVORY COAST – Max Gradel (Bournemouth), Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace), Eric Bailly (Man. United), Wilfried Bony (Stoke) and Lamine Kone (Sunderland).
TOGO – None.
MOROCCO – Sofiane Boufal (Southampton) and Nordin Amrabat (Watford).
DR CONGO – Dieumerci Mbokani (Hull).
GHANA – Daniel Amartey (Leicester) and Andre Ayew (West Ham).
UGANDA – None.
EGYPT – Mohamed Elneny (Arsenal), Ahmed Elmohamady (Hull) and Ramadan Sobhi (Stoke).
MALI – Bakary Sako (Crystal Palace).
It seems that Leicester and Sunderland, who both look likely to be fighting relegation come the end of the season, will be hit the hardest in January. Leicester will lose two crucial attacking threats in Mahrez and Slimani, whilst also losing defensive midfielder, Daniel Amartey. Sunderland will lose Didier Ndong, who has looked like a decent player in midfield for them since joining in the summer and Lamine Kone, who is one of their first choice centre back’s. They will also lose Wahbi Khazri, who is also a first team player for the club. The effect of that these absences have on the two clubs could prove to be costly come May.
Another hugely influential player who will be leaving for the tournament is Liverpool winger Sadio Mane. The man bought for around £34 million from Southampton in the summer has already began to prove that he may just be worth the investment, with 9 goals and 5 assists for his club this season. With Liverpool mounting a genuine title challenge this season just how costly will his allegiance to his nation be for the Anfield side?
Speaking of allegiance it’s also worth mentioning that some players have refused to go to the tournament as they want to stay and focus on helping their clubs at domestic level. Is it crazy to choose club over nation? I think so. However, others have simply not been picked or are injured and some have missed out due to their countries not qualifying. So with that said, here’s the long list of African players who won’t be going to 2017’s tournament:
ALGERIA – Sofiane Feghouli (West Ham, Not chosen).
CAMEROON – Joel Matip (Liverpool, chose not to go), Allan Nyom (Watford, chose not to go).
DR CONGO – Benik Afobe (Bournemouth, wanted to concentrate on breaking into the starting XI) and Yannick Bolasie (Everton, injured).
EQUITORIAL GUINEA (did not qualify) – Emilio Nsue (Middlesborough) and Pedro Obiang (West Ham).
GAMBIA (did not qualify) – Modou Barrow (Swansea).
GHANA – Kwesi Appiah, Jeff Schlupp (Both Crystal Palace and not chosen).
IVORY COAST – Yaya Toure (Man. City, Retired), Brice Dja Djedje (Watford, not chosen).
KENYA (did not qualify) – Victor Wanyama (Tottenham).
MALI – Adama Traore (Not chosen).
NIGERIA (did not qualify) – Alex Iwobi (Arsenal), Victor Moses and John Obi Mikel (Both Chelsea), Ahmed Musa (Leicester), Kelechi Iheanacho (Man. City), Victor Anichebe (Sunderland), Isaac Success and Odion Ighalo (Both Watford).
SENEGAL – Pape Souare (Crystal Palace, injured), Diafra Sakho (West Ham, injured) and Papy Djilobodji (Sunderland, not chosen).
SOUTH AFRICA (did not qualify) – Steven Pienaar (Sunderland, Retired).
TUNISIA – Yohan Benalouane (Leicester, not chosen)
ZIMBABWE – Tendayi Darikwa (Burnley, not chosen) and Brendan Galloway (West Brom, approached by Zimbabwe, but chose England instead).
Several players staying to represent their clubs then and by the looks of it, Premier League clubs should be happy that Nigeria didn’t manage to qualify!
I personally can’t wait for the start of the tournament though as it presents a different kind of football to what we usually get to see week in week out on our TV screens and will give us an insight into which players from the continent could make a break at higher levels. Several players have been bought into Europe after being spotted by scouts at the tournament so keep an eye out for some stars at this year’s campaign.
Also, keep an eye out on AFEFootballNews for more stories on the 2017 African Cup of Nations which are set to be published in the coming days.