The key African transfers of the January window
In this feature, Africa Football Shop’s Editor-in-Chief Ed Dove presents the key African transfers of the January window.
Amidst the many moves to have taken place over the last month, some of the continent’s veteran greats and emerging prospects have changed clubs and seen their career move in a completely new direction.
This piece looks at some of the more intriguing deals to have taken place.
Over the last 18 months, Elderson Echiejile has proved himself to be one of Africa’s finest full-backs. The left-back was a key man as Nigeria claimed the continental crown in South Africa at the beginning of 2013 and also impressed during the Confederations Cup six months later.
His performances prompted moneybags Monaco to splash the cash to recruit him from Portuguese side Braga.
This move could go either way. Elderson certainly has the presence and the ability to thrive on the Riviera, but will the presence of Layvin Kurzawa, Ligue 1’s outstanding left-back so far this season, limit his playing time?
Modibo Diakite is a fine defender. He is strong, an accomplished tackler and has also demonstrated an impressive ability to read the game.
Few Sunderland fans could testify to this, however, as the defender has only played six times, a victim of the club’s early season turmoil and their change in manager.
Fiorentina have decided to bring the Senegalese stopper back to Italy in a loan deal that should see Diakite regain some of his confidence.The Viola have an excellent clutch of midfielders and play an attractive passing game, but they are weak in defence—this is something that Diakite should be able to address.
The jury is still out as to whether Adel Taarabt is a genius or a joker.
He was sublime in the Championship, guiding QPR to the top flight and winning the division’s Player of the Year award, suggesting that he was a remarkable talent. However, since then the years have not been kind.
Milan have now moved in to end the playmaker’s Premier League perjury. I suspect that Taarabt will be capable of rising to the level required of him at the San Siro. The likes of Kaka, Keisuke Honda and coach, Clarence Seedorf, should help Adel develop as an attacking midfielder.
While Monaco’s loan signing of Dimitar Berbatov may have stolen the headlines on the Riviera on deadline day, their acquisition of Tunisian defender Aymen Abdennour might prove to be just as important.
The right-sided defender is an established performer in Ligue 1, having first arrived at Toulouse back in 2011. Before that, he was a key man at Etoile du Sahel, back in his homeland, and also appeared, briefly, for Werder Bremen.
Monaco’s vice-president Vadim Vasilyev described the player as such: “Aymen Abdennour is a very solid defender with a profile that we didn’t have in the squad. We have been following him for a long time and so we are very satisfied to have reached a deal with Toulouse to bring him to Monaco.”
Having been courted by numerous clubs during the transfer window, French-Cameroonian attacker Paul-Georges Ntep has sealed a move to Ligue 1 side Stade Rennais. The likes of Nantes and West Ham United were linked to the player, but his new club should provide him with a fine platform within which to continue his development.
Ntep glistened in Ligue 2, scoring nine and setting-up four in 34 appearances, helping AJA back to the top flight.
French Football Weekly described him as follows: “Ntep is a natural attacker capable of playing in all areas of the final third. He is totally two-footed and can play on either wing. He started off life as a striker, but Auxerre have been using him out wide more in the past few months. He has great pace, flair, skill and already has a feeling of the ‘X factor’ about him.”
Majeed Waris is an explosive presence who looks set to lead the line for the Black Stars of Ghana for years to come.
Since joining Spartak Moscow in 2013, however, Waris hasn’t quite continued his momentum of his earlier showings in Sweden with BK Hacken.
During this window he sealed a loan move to French side Valenciennes, and looks set to thrive in a division where Ghanaian players, and African strikers in general, have so often thrived.
Current internationals such as John Boye, Jonathan Mensah and Andre Ayew have all found fortune in Ligue 1, while former-Valenciennes forward Vincent Aboubakar (now of Lorient) has progressed to become one of the division’s most-feared forwards.
Lacina Traore could easily enter this list twice!
The towering Ivorian striker finally escaped Dagestan, joining the exodus from Anzhi Makhachkala six months later than the majority of his former team-mates, and moving to Ligue 1 Monaco.
The 23-year-old should be a great addition to the squad at Les Rouges et Blanc, and even though he may not be a starter, his height and presence should be an excellent counterpoint to the qualities of Rademel Falcao and Emmanuel Riviere.
For the coming six months he will be turning out for Premier League side Everton, primarily as a support act for Romelu Lukaku—a powerful forward who Traore would do well to emulate.
Michael Essien may be winding down towards the end of his illustrious career, but his recent switch to Milan provides him with an opportunity to attempt a final assault on the summit of the sport.
It’s easy to forget just what a fine player Essien has been throughout his career. Here is a man who has played for Lyon, Chelsea and Real Madrid, has played at a World Cup, and has won the league title in both France and Spain. He is a former Champions League winner and was also named African Footballer of the Year in 2006.
Injuries have savaged his progress however, and Essien has become such a shadow of his former self that his mentor Jose Mourinho no longer had a spot for him at Chelsea.
Essien is now heading towards the swansong of his career—if he performs well, he may not be remembered—unfortunately—as a sublime player who drifted off, anonymously, into the abyss.