Top Five: Africa’s breakout stars of the 2018-19 season

Samuel Chukwueze Villarreal
Which of the continent’s star players in Europe took their game to another level this term?

  1. Youcef Atal

    Youcef Atal

    Despite only arriving in France from Paradou AC of Algeria in July 2018, Atal has required little time to acclimatise to Ligue 1 with OGC Nice.

    It’s not too far to suggest that he’s been one of the division’s best players this term, with his rampaging runs down the right side—either from full-back or a more advanced role—proving to be a nightmare for defenders in the French top flight.

    He’s scored six goals, and is among the three most effective dribblers in the division, and is reportedly courting interest from Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, Internazionale and Bayern Munich.

  2. Noussair Mazraoui
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    Noussair Mazraoui

    Another African right-back who’s caught the eye is Morocco’s Mazrouai, who’s built on his handful of appearances last term to establish himself as a key player for Ajax this season.

    He’s already won the Dutch Cup, could yet clinch the Eredivisie, and has demonstrated his aptitude for the big games during the Amsterdam giants’ Champions League run.

    The versatile Mazraoui has the technical quality to be a major asset to Herve Renard’s Atlas Lions at the Africa Cup of Nations, and has reportedly been watched by Arsenal and Liverpool.

  3. Samuel Chukwueze

    Samuel Chukwueze

    It’s been a tricky year for Villarreal, who have been battling relegation for much of the campaign.

    However, the emergence of Chukwueze has been one bright light.

    He arrived from Diamond Football Academy in his homeland in 2017, and was promptly promoted to the Yellow Submarine’s senior side after impressing with their reserve team.

    The wonderkid made his league debut and his Nigeria debut in November, and has subsequently weighed in with five goals and two assists in La Liga this term.

    Chukwueze has a decision to make this summer, where he’ll be in demand by both Nigeria’s senior side and their U-20 team.

  4. Youssef En-Nesyri

    Youssef En-Nesyri

    Also in Spain, En-Nesyri built on his encouraging showing against La Roja in the World Cup by signing a five-year deal with Leganes in August.

    Six months later, he became the first ever Leganes player to score a first-half hat-trick, and also netted a double for Morocco as they dispatched Malawi 3-0 in September’s Africa Cup of Nations qualifier.

    To date, he’s scored nine in the top flight this term—a notable improvement on the four he managed for Malaga last season—and at 21, has an exciting few years of further development ahead of him.

  5. Ibrahim Sangare

    Ibrahim Sangare

    We’d already seen glimpses of Sangare’s talent over the last two seasons with Toulouse, but this year he’s become a figure around whom the team has been built, and has taken his game to a new level.

    The Ivorian is a dominant presence in the heart of the park, protecting Le TFC’s backline and amassing an eye-catching number of ball retrievals.

    For context, only Bordeaux’s Otavio has averaged more than Sangare’s 3.7 tackles per match in Ligue 1, although the youngster is a classy operator with the ball at his feet, and must not be categorised as a pure destroyer.

    The midfielder has signed with Toulouse until 2022, but expect one or two European giants to be monitoring his progress.