September 27, 2022


Mohamed Salah celebrates for Liverpool
Mohamed Salah won the Premier League Golden Boot for the third time last season after scoring 23 goals

On Friday, the new English Premier League season begins, with Manchester City looking to defend the crown they won in May after beating Liverpool to the title by just one point.

Egypt’s Mohamed Salah finished as top scorer with 20 goals, alongside Tottenham’s Son Heung-min, and is one to watch as much as ever – as are the few new arrivals.

With Senegalese star Sadio Mane having left England for Germany, who are the best Africans to step into his big shoes?

The star man

As the Premier League’s 31st season gets under way, all eyes will be on the league’s top African scorer – and biggest star – Salah, who has scored 120 goals and will be looking to extend his impressive record, perhaps to the point of being unsustainable .

Only two other Africans have over a century of Premier League goals, but Mane (111) is now at Bayern Munich, while Chelsea legend Didier Drogba (104) retired four years ago.

When Salah scores his first league goal this season, he will overtake Reds great Steven Gerrard and if he scores over 30 for the first time since 2018, he could break into the Premier League’s top 10 goalscorers (and to surpass Michael Owen’s 150).

A Premier League, FA Cup, Champions League and Club World Cup winner with Liverpool, the two-time Confederation of African Football and BBC African Footballer of the Year is looking to add to club and individual accolades after picking up three top scorer awards championship since 2017.

Landmark

Manchester City are celebrating their 2022 Premier League title
Riyad Mahrez (right) could become the most capped African player in Premier League history this season

After claiming his fourth title last season to equal Drogba, Manchester City’s Algerian star Riyad Mahrez is chasing two personal bests.

The second African – after Ivorian Yaya Toure – to win Premier League titles with two different clubs, now hopes to become the continent’s most successful with a fifth title.

He is also on pace to become the African Premier League’s assist king with 51 assists, while Drogba – the only player ahead of him – recorded 55.

Chelsea’s Senegalese goalkeeper Edouard Mendy has enjoyed another impressive campaign between the posts at club and international level, while also picking up the 2021 FIFA Men’s Goalkeeper of the Year award.

Now in his third season, the 30-year-old African champions will look to add to his 30 league clean sheets as the Blues chase domestic and European success.

The new arrivals

Kalidou Koulibali

Quiet activity in the transfer window meant only a handful of African players from the continent arrived in England.

Six years after an unsuccessful attempt to first bring him to England, Senegal captain Kalidou Koulibaly has finally joined compatriot Mendy at six-time champions Chelsea.

Regarded as one of the best centre-backs in the world, Koulibaly – who signed a four-year deal after leaving Serie A side Napoli – is the continent’s top-flight arrival.

“I will have to adapt to everything because the speed is faster [in England]”, the 31-year-old he said on Wednesday.

“I will need time for sure because I can’t be the player that everyone wants from the first game. I will take my time and in two or three months I will be the one that everyone is waiting for.”

Elsewhere, Malian midfielder Yves Bishouma has joined Tottenham on a four-year deal worth £25m (plus add-ons) after impressing at Brighton with his goals, passing and all-round play.

Compatriot Cheick Doucoure joined Crystal Palace from Ligue 1 side Lens on a five-year deal, while Moroccan Nayed Aguerd left Rennes for West Ham United, but the 26-year-old will miss the start of the season after picking up an ankle injury in a friendly . against Rangers.

The ones you need to watch

Cheick Doucoure and Joe Aribo
Mali’s Cheick Doucoure and Nigeria’s Joe Aribo to play in the Premier League for the first time

Nigeria’s Taiwo Awoniyi believes he has arrived at Nottingham Forest who have just gone ahead will attract fans from across Africa’s most populous nation at the club.

The 24-year-old striker, who scored 20 goals in 43 games in all competitions last season, joined Forest from German club Berlin for a club-record fee in June.

“This is a great opportunity for my career,” he told BBC Sport Africa. “The hard work starts now and I can’t wait to get started.”

Southampton have signed compatriot Joe Aribo on a four-year deal from Rangers Scotland and a player who featured in last season’s Europa League final has already shown what he can produce.

“The goal in pre-season was good, but it’s just for pre-season, I just want to keep my head focused on what’s ahead,” he told BBC Sport Africa.

The 25-year-old Super Eagle joined for a fee reported to be around £6m, rising to £10m with add-ons.

Innovative season

Time is running out for Nigeria international Alex Iwobi at Everton, who joined the Toffees from Arsenal in 2019 but has failed to really establish himself in the club’s starting line-up under four managers.

“Last season was difficult but I am positive that things will be better this season,” Iwobi, 26, told BBC Sport Africa.

Tunisian teenager Hannibal Mejbri, meanwhile, says he is “ready to risk everything to succeed at Manchester United”.

Since arriving from French side Monaco in 2019, the 19-year-old has made just three league appearances for United, but with 16 appearances for the Carthage Eagles, he is keen to force his way into new manager Erik ten Hag’s first-team plans.

“I have to work hard,” he told Pro-Direct Soccer France recently.

“I didn’t come here for nothing, not to have on my CV: ‘I played for United’, I came to prove to the world that a young man from Paris, from the neighborhood, can come and impose himself.”

A surprise Caf Young Player of the Year winner, Pape Matar Sarr has finally been linked with Tottenham Hotspur.

Pape Matar Sar from Senegal and Tottenham
Pape Matar Sarr was recently named Caf New Player of the Year

The 19-year-old defensive midfielder joined Spurs last year but spent the season on loan at French side Metz to continue his development.

Despite playing in some pre-season games, Sarr has been linked with another loan move away from North London.

He has eight caps, including one at January’s Africa Cup of Nations, which Senegal won for the first time in their history.

Out of sight

Veteran Ivory Coast defender Eric Bailly is expected to put his injury woes behind him at Manchester United by leaving the club before the end of the current transfer window.

He has been linked with a move to another Premier League club, but is also said to be interested in clubs in Italy, Spain and France.

Elsewhere, Ivory Coast winger Simon Adingra joined Brighton from Danish side Nordsjælland but the Seagulls sent him to Belgian club Union SG on a season-long loan.

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