A fairly uneventful January transfer window may have slammed shut, but clubs across the Premier League will already be planning for the summer. And there’s little doubt gaffers on these shores will have looked to the Africa Cup of Nations for inspiration.
With the continental showpiece having ended with Cameroon’s thrilling 2-1 victory over Egypt in yesterday’s final, the Ladbrokes News team have picked out a fantastic fivesome likely to have made the summer wish-lists of Prem gaffers.
Faycal Fajr (Morocco)
The Atlas Lions may have bowed out at the Quarter Final stage, but their modest run in the competition still gave attacking midfielder Faycal Fajr the chance to showcase his talent.
He produced a pair of inch-perfect set-pieces to set up Morocco’s first two goals in the 3-1 triumph over Togo, while the Deportivo La Coruna man also impressed greatly in the victory over pre-tournament favourites Ivory Coast with his neat passing and dynamic play in possession.
Naim Sliti (Tunisia)
Were it not for the 24-year-old’s contributions, there’s little possibility we would’ve seen Les Aigles de Carthage make it to the knockouts of this competition – with the Lille loanee putting in a pair of outstanding displays against Algeria and Zimbabwe.
The winger netted in both games, with a long-range effort against Zimbabwe and an ice-cool spot-kick against the Desert Warriors, as well as an assist in the 4-2 win over Callisto Pasuwa’s men.
Currently on loan at Lille from Ligue 2 Red Star (no, we don’t get it either), the talented left winger continues to go from strength to strength. One to watch.
Keita Balde (Senegal)
The 21-year-old may have dropped off a bit after strong displays against Tunisia and Zimbabwe in the opening two games, where he chalked up a pair of assists. But those glimpses of real quality – combined with his displays for club side Lazio – are likely to have put managers on these shores on high alert.
Having already netted six times in Serie A this season, hopes for his future are very high at the Stadio Olimpico. But with Lazio now 16 years and counting without a finish above third place, his head could well be turned if an English giant comes in at the close of this campaign – with Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho believed to be a fan.
Ahmed Hegazy (Egypt)
While we’ve focused on wing wizards and midfield maestros so far, it hasn’t all been about the glamorous side of the game, with the rock-solid Egyptian defence impressing en route to a first AFCON final since 2010 – four tournaments ago.
Nobody has been a bigger part of that than Al-Ahly defender Hegazy, whose tidy, reliable displays at centre-back saw the Pharaohs record clean sheets in each of their first four games in Gabon.
And with Transfermarkt.co.uk currently estimating his value at £850k, the 26-year-old could well prove a real bargain gem if any Prem club steps in for him this summer.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon)
Well, we could hardly leave without mentioning the man who has been strongly linked with Man United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Yeovil Town (probably) in the past 12 months.
The hosts didn’t enjoy the happiest of times hosting the Africa Cup of Nations, exiting the competition at the group stage following a trio of draws. But true to expectations, the Borussia Dortmund man proved to be their talisman, netting Les Pantheres’ only two goals in the tournament.
With 21 in 24 games for BvB already this campaign, it seems less a case of when one of the Premier League heavyweights will snap him up, and more a debate regarding which of them will get their hands on the Laval-born hitman.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing