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Africa Cup of Nations

Yannick Bolasie concerned about Afcon impact on Everton career

17:44 BST 29/06/2019
Yannick Bolasie of DR Congo
The Democratic Republic of Congo wideman has acknowledged concerns that the tournament’s timing may have a negative impact on his club career

Democratic Republic of Congo wideman Yannick Bolasie has acknowledged that the summer Africa Cup of Nations has denied him the chance for a full preseason with Everton and may impact his club career.

The wideman is coming off the back of a mixed campaign in which he spent six months on loan at Aston Villa in the Championship, before moving to Belgian giants Anderlecht in another temporary switch in January.

The winger, who missed almost 13 months of action with an anterior cruciate ligament injury sustained soon after his £25 million move from Crystal Palace to Everton in August 2016, believes the Afcon may hinder his chances of starting the new season strongly.

“Logically, if I really wanted to think [about it], I’d just put my career first and say I’m going back to Everton,” he told Goal. “I feel myself, I’m back sharp, and I’d go and do a full preseason, which I haven’t had in two years and which makes the difference to anyone’s season.

“For me, it’s not a case of coming here to try and turn myself [around],” he added. “I want to play at the Africa Cup of Nations to the best of my ability, but I’m also taking [the tournament] as preparation for pre-season going into the next season.”

This is the first edition of the Afcon that is being staged in June and July following a decision by the Confederation of African Football in July 2017 to reschedule the tournament from its traditional January-February slot.

While Bolasie returned from his knee injury in December 2017, he has struggled to retain the form he showed before his setback.

He netted just once in 16 appearances during the Toffees’ muddled 2017-18 campaign, but was enjoying an upturn in fortunes at Anderlecht—six goals, three assists in 17 outings—after cutting short his time at Villa midway through last term.

“I think I’ve been on top form this season,” the wideman continued, "[but] my season has probably been stretched out because of the Afcon.

“You think: ‘I’ve got to go to the Afcon,’ and it’s just the wheels spinning, spinning, spinning. You need a little bit of a break.

“I don’t make any excuse, it is what it is. I’ve come to perform for my country, my heart’s in it, and I always want to do that. I enjoy doing it, and I’ve come.”

Bolasie’s DRC have struggled at the Nations Cup, losing both of their opening matches 2-0 (to Uganda and Egypt), and will be eliminated if they fail to beat Zimbabwe on Sunday. Even with a victory, they will need results in other groups to go their way in order to progress as one of the four best third-placed teams.

“I always like a challenge,” Bolasie concluded optimistically. “I think everything I’ve done has been a challenge in my football career, it’s never been straightforward.”

The winger played the first 69 minutes of the Leopards’ opener—an unexpected defeat by Uganda—and was introduced off the bench against the hosts as Florent Ibenge’s side tried to salvage something from the match.