With the African Cup Of Nations underway, there will be host of talents at display. Some might perform to get bigger moves from their current clubs, while other fringe players will stake a claim for a starting berth in their club’s set-up.
We take a look at 5 such young players from the African Continent; aged 23 or less, who we think will lead their nations for years to come…
1. Nabil Bentaleb (Algeria)
A customary name in the Premier League, and more so for the White Hart Lane faithful, 20-year-old Bentaleb is no more a young player knocking on the door for a first team opportunity. After being handed a debut almost a year ago by then Tottenham manager Tim Sherwood, the Algerian has cemented his place in the Spurs starting XI. The London club appointed new manager in Mauricio Pochettino for the new season, Bentaleb’s starting spot seemed to be in contention, but the Argentine’s faith in young players has seen Bentaleb start 10 of their 22 Premier League games. He will play a crucial role in The Greens’ AFCON adventure, alongside exciting young players such as Yacine Brahimi, Saphir Taïder and Riyad Mahrez.
2. Serge Aurier (Côte d’Ivoire)
“He’s the best right-back in all of France. I think he’ll do well at the next level too, in the Premier League.” said an impressed Didier Drogba about his compatriot Serge Aurier. The right-back, making his World Cup debut, set-up Wilfried Bony and Gervinho with two excellent deliveries. Arsenal, who were in the market for Bacary Sagna’s replacement, shortlisted the Toulouse man as the ideal contender, but French champions PSG snapped up the youngster. His career since then, has stalled somewhat, making just 9 appearances for the Parisians. The Ivorian will try and put in stellar performances, forcing his way back into Laurent Blanc’s starting XI.
3. Bertrand Traore (Burkina Faso)
One of Chelsea’s bright young talents, Bertrand Traore has been burdened by . The attacker, who was loaned out to Vitesse Arnhem, has enjoyed a brilliant year with the Dutch club. The 19-year-old has scored 7 goals, setting up one, having joined The Vitas a year ago. The former Auxerre man starred for The Stallions’ deafeat against Gabon in their AFCON opener, and was the best player on the pitch for his side., but couldn’t help is team avoid defeat. Paul Put will be hoping more from the tricky attacker if 2013’s runners-up are to finish with a respectable spot.
4. Nabi Keïta (Guinea)
Another player from the Red Bull Salzburg’s emerging talent factory, whom Europe’s biggest may keep a close eye in the near future is Guinean youngster Nabi Keïta. A robust central midfielder, Keïta has forced his way into the Austrian Bundesliga’s reigning champions after arriving from Ligue 2 side FC Istres in the summer. Just 19, the tenacious midfielder had impressed with his overall play. Appearing 19 times for the Austrian side, Keïta averages 3.52 interceptions and 2.84 tackles per game, thus becoming a vital cog in Adolf Hütter’s setup. With star midfielder Kevin Kampl’s transfer to Borussia Dortmund, there is a huge void left in the Red Bulls’ midfield, but manager Adolf Hütter has insisted Keïta is set to play a prominent role in the Slovenian’s absence. Sadio Mane and Kevin Kampl have earned moves abroad, captain and star striker Jonathan Soriano in high demand, Martin Hinteregger has been linked with a move to Liverpool in the past. Keïta might soon join the list of players whom Europe’s heavyweights have kept an envious eye on with a good showing at the AFCON.
5. Riyad Mahrez (Algeria)
Another Algerian representative from the Premier League, Riyad Mahrez travelled with his side to Equatorial Guinea as one of the strongest teams competing for the continent’s most coveted trophy. The Leicester City winger has been a creative spark for the Foxes, and is always dangerous cutting in from the right on his favored left, as he demonstrated against Hull City where he scored the winner. The former Havre attacker’s side are drawn in a difficult group alongside Ghana, Senegal and South Africa.
Image Courtesy : Sky Sports