La Liga stars to watch out for at 2019 Africa Cup of Nations
With the 2019 instalment of Africaâs premier international tournament set to kick off in Egypt, hereâs a look at some of the very best LaLiga Santander representatives across the 24 competing nations.
THOMAS PARTEY (ATLETICO DE MADRID & GHANA)
As a regular starter at title-challengers Atlético de Madrid, Partey is one of the poster boys for this summer’s Africa Cup of Nations. The 25-year-old tends to play a more attacking role for Ghana than he does for Diego Simeone at Atleti, we may be set to see one or two of his trademark long-range strikes as he looks to lead the Black Stars to their first AFCON title of the 21st century.
YOUSSEF EN-NESYRI (CD LEGANES & MORROCO)
En-Nesyri scored his first international goal during the 2017 AFCON and has come a long way since then. Still just 22, the Fez native has turned heads in LaLiga Santander this season with Leganes and finished the season as the side’s top scorer. The versatile striker went from strength to strength through the campaign – becoming the first player in club history to score a hat-trick in February – and will be looking to finish his breakout season with some international silverware in Egypt.
MOUSSA WAGUÉ (FC BARCELONA & SENEGAL)
Just 20 years of age, Moussa Wagué has already scored at a World Cup and played for the Barcelona first team. That’s not bad at all! The up-and-coming full-back – of whom those in the Camp Nou offices have very high hopes – has impressed mostly for Barcelona’s reserve side this season and now turns his focus to the AFCON where Senegal are set to face Algeria, Kenya and Tanzania in Group C.
KENNETH OMERUO (CD LEGANES & NIGERIA)
Leganés registered their highest-ever finish in LaLiga Santander in 2018/19 (13th), conceding just 43 goals along the way – the fifth-best record in the whole league – thanks in no small part to the performances of Nigerian centre-back Kenneth Omeruo. The Abia State native, who has voiced his desire to make his loan switch from Chelsea permanent this summer, is now gunning for his second African Cup of Nations title after winning the 2013 edition while still a teenager.
MOSES SIMON (LEVANTE UD & NIGERIA)
Moses Simon went from strength to strength in his first season in LaLiga with Levante, featuring in 14 of his side’s last 16 league games as they steered clear of relegation. The versatile Simon proved his worth to coach Paco Lopez either as a wing-back or traditional winger on both flanks and now goes into his first major tournament with the Super Eagles.
AÏSSA MANDI (REAL BETIS & ALGERIA)
Mandi, who made his international debut in 2014, is set to play in his third AFCON tournament. The Real Betis centre-back will now be hoping it’s third time lucky after rounding off an impressive season in LaLiga; not only was the 27-year-old as strong as ever in defence, but he also took his passing game to new heights, finishing the season with a pass completion rate of 92.6%, behind only Barcelona’s Arthur and Real Madrid’s Toni Kroos.
KARL TOKO EKAMBI (VILLARREAL CF & CAMEROON)
Karl Toko Ekambi is set to play a key role in attack as Cameroon look to retain the title they won in 2017. The frontman impressed with 18 goals in his debut season with Villarreal and heads to Egypt brimming with confidence after helping the Yellow Submarine steer clear of relegation in what was a difficult season for the side from Spain’s east coast. Toko Ekambi, still just 26, has even captained his country on a few occasions and has quickly established himself as one of LaLiga’s deadliest strikers.
MUBARAK WAKASO (D. ALAVES & GHANA)
This will be Mubarak Wakaso’s fourth Africa Cup of Nations and the 28-year-old will be determined to make this one to remember after the disappointments of 2013, 2015 and 2017. The Alavés midfielder boasts bags of experience and travels to Egypt after an impressive year in LaLiga which saw Alaves in contention for the European spots for months before finishing a creditable 11th.
SAMUEL CHUKWUEZE (VILLARREAL CF & NIGERIA)
The 20-year-old from Umuahia in Abia State has been linked with a number of top clubs across Europe this summer for good reason. Promoted to the Villarreal senior squad midway through the 2018/19 season, Chukwueze wowed fans with his electric dribbling and direct style and picked up five goals as Villarreal secured their LaLiga Santander status for another year. He could have represented Nigeria at the Under-20s World Cup this summer but will instead travel with the senior squad to Egypt. A potential secret weapon off the bench for Gernot Rohr.
ALY ABEID (AD ALCORCON & MAURITANIA)
It’s not just LaLiga Santander players that’ll be representing Spanish football at this summer’s tournament. There are also a number of talented players from LaLiga 1l2l3, Spanish football’s second tier, and one of them is Aly Abeid. A left-back for AD Alcorcon on loan from Levante this season, the rangy wide man has been called up to the Mauritania national side for the first as they head to their first-ever AFCON.
All LaLiga players at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations:
Algeria: Aïssa Mandi (Real Betis)
Angola: Jonás Ramalho (Girona), Jérémie Bela (Albacete)
Cameroon: Wilfrid Kaptoum (Real Betis), Karl Toko Ekambi (Villarreal CF)
DR Congo: Giannelli Imbula (Rayo Vallecano)
Ghana: Mubarak Wakaso (Alavés), Thomas Partey (Atlético Madrid), Kwabena Owusu (CD Leganes)
Guinea: José Kanté (Gimnàstic de Tarragona)
Kenya: Ismael Athuman (Las Palmas)
Mauritania: Aly Abeid (Alcorcón), Moctar Sidi El Hacen (Real Valladolid)
Morocco: Munir Mohand Mohamedi (Málaga), Bono (Girona), Sofiane Boufal (RC Celta), Youssef En-Nesyri (Leganés)
Nigeria: Kenneth Omeruo (Leganés), Moses Simon (Levante), Samuel Chukwueze (Villarreal)
Senegal: Moussa Wagué (Barcelona), Alfred N'Diaye (Málaga)
Tanzania: Farid Mussa (CD Tenerife)
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