BY MARK GLEESON
Taiwo Awoniyi: The Nigerian got his dream move back to England’s Premier League with newly promoted Nottingham Forest after his previous spell as a teenager at Liverpool did not see him achieve the breakthrough he craved. Now mentally tougher after a spell in the Bundesliga with Union Berlin, Awoniyi is expected to become the lead striker in the Super Eagles line-up.
Calvin Bassey: Despite growing up in London, the Nigerian fullback has had to take a roundabout route in his career in a bid to try and play in the world’s richest league. He hails from a troubled neighborhood and says football was his way out, making a breakthrough first at Scotland’s Glasgow Rangers and now catching the eye at Ajax Amsterdam, putting him on course for a return to England.
Patson Daka: At club level, Daka is already playing among the best in the world in the Premier League but it is now with the Zambian national team that he is set to prove his ability. Zambia are in desperate need of revival and Daka is the man to lead them back to past glories as they will have qualifying for the next Africa Cup of Nations finals top of their agenda for 2023.
Ibrahima Koné: The imposing center forward from Mali has already drawn comparisons with Belgium’s goalscoring ace Romelu Lukaku, given his muscular frame and strength on the ball. He has played a leading role in helping unfashionable Lorient emerge among the French league frontrunners this season and caught the eye of the bigger clubs.
Mohammed Kudus: The Ghanaian has overcome serious injury to bed down a place at Ajax Amsterdam, where this season he has been successfully converted into a center forward on occasion and scored in the Champions League. His versatility marks him out for a transfer to one of the clubs in the big five European leagues as his Dutch team are famous for selling their most exciting players.
Reinildo: Mozambique is the country that produced African greats like Eusebio and Mario Coluna but it has been generations since they have given the game another superstar. Fullback Reinildo might just be that man, having already won France’s Ligue 1 with Lille and now chasing Champions League glory with Atletico Madrid of Spain, who bought him last season in an expensive move.
Ibrahim Sangaré: There is always a market for a powerful midfield general, with a never-tiring engine, running, tackling and playing the role of enforcer in the middle of the park and it is only a matter of time before the Ivory Coast international hardman makes a move from Dutch club PSV Eindhoven to a club in either England, Spain or Germany.
Edmond Tapsoba: The Burkinabe defender has among the best figures in the German Bundesliga – pass rate, tackles and intercepts but also fouls committed and a harsh reputation for indiscipline. But it is his commitment that sees him often on the wrong end of the referee’s whistle, a characteristic that has ironically endeared him to the Bayer Leverkusen fans.
Tarik Tissoudali: A horror knee injury robbed the striker of a chance to lead the attack for Morocco at the World Cup in Qatar but he is expected to bounce back in 2023 and continue his scoring form, both at club level in Belgium, and for his country. An opportunist striker, he is also expecting to be a transfer target at the end of the season.
Abakar Sylla: The Ivorian fullback made a huge impact in the Champions League group stage from September to November as his unfashionable Belgian side Club Brugge won through to this year’s knockout stages, confounding expectations with some shock victories, and at the age of 19 he is sure to be on his way to a much more glamorous destination in mid-year.