Some of these players are already attracting interest from top European clubs.
Over the years African footballers have done wonders in Europe, starting from the legends of the game like Roger Milla, Jay-Jay Okocha, Samuel Eto’o and Didier Drogba to current superstars like Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, Hakim Ziyech and Riyad Mahrez. Africa has always been well represented in Europe with countless stars plying their trade. Therefore a lot of clubs have set up strong scouting networks in this continent and have unearthed some exciting prospects.
We have summed up a list full of exciting African footballers who have taken their initial steps in Europe and can become world-beaters in the next few years.
10. Youssouph Badji (Striker- Club Brugge)
One of the most exciting talents emerging from Senegal, Youssouph Badji is still a new name in European football as he only made his move to Club Brugge in January 2020. However, the teenager did not jump to prominence in Philippe Clement’s side. He had a terrific run of matches in August where he scored against KAS Eupen and also followed it up with a winner against Genk.
The 18-year old lanky forward has immense potential but still has to work his way past the likes of Emmanuel Dennis, Kreppin Diatta and others in the team to be a regular. For now, Clement uses him as an impact player who can make a difference coming on later in the game.
9. Mohamed Camara (Midfielder- RB Salzburg)
Following the footsteps of former Red Bull Salzburg duo, Diadie Samassékou and Amadou Haidara who have progressed through the Austrian outfit and are now prominent names in the Mali national team, Mohamed Camara is yet another youngster rising through the JMG Academy in Bamako. The 20-year-old was nurtured in the academy before moving to hometown club Real Bamako and later guided the Mali U-17 team to the U-17 Africa Cup of Nations glory in 2017. He then impressed in the U-17 FIFA World Cup in India and guided Mali to a fourth-place finish which attracted interest from all over Europe.
He continued his progress after signing a cooperation contract with RB Salzburg and FC Leifering. He kept on plying his trade in the Austrian second division as he gradually rose the ranks. With Jesse Marsch’s arrival, Camara has grown into a regular at Salzburg. One of the brightest African footballers, he has captained Mali in youth levels and has maturity beyond his years. He acts as the fulcrum of the Salzburg side and possesses great attributes of retaining and recycling possession. He is a defensive midfielder with a lot of promise and certainly one to watch out for in the future.
8. Lassina Traore (Striker- Ajax)
Hailing from the fabled Ajax Academy and being the cousin of Bertrand Traore, the youngster is bound to be something special. Lassina Traore has already made a name for himself with his goalscoring exploits for Ajax this season. The 19-year-old has shown steady progress from the 2019-20 season where he could only manage two goals and as many assists in the Eredivisie. This season he already has tallied seven goals and six assists from ten league appearances.
He has also been in fine form in national colours, scoring five goals in 12 appearances for Burkina Faso. Traore made history against VVV-Venlo as he was involved in eight goals as Ajax thrashed them 13-0. The 19-year-old lanky forward became the only second teenager to score five in a game since Marco Van Basten. Traore is a proper striker who likes to get into the box and uses his physicality to shield opponent defenders. Traore is regarded widely as the next big thing coming out of the Ajax academy.
7. Samuel Chukwueze (Winger- Villareal FC)
The Nigerian winger has been in and around the scene for a couple of years now, ever since he was promoted to the Villareal first team. Chukwueze’s playing style has often seen him being compared with Dutch forward Arjen Robben, primarily because of the Nigerian’s ability to cut in with his left foot and take shots at goal.
The 20-year-old comes with massive potential as he has the physical tenacity to succeed at the top level. However, consistency has been his issue this season as manager Unai Emery wants the winger to take more responsibilities upfront. Lately, he has also played as a support striker but if he wants to take the next leap forward he has to improve his decision making in the final third and take more shots. Despite the flaws, he is one of those players who can catch the world by surprise.
6. Krepin Diatta (Winger- Club Brugge)
Another Senegalese forward who has shown steady progress in his career ever since he has joined Club Brugge in 2018. Diatta started his career at the Oslo Academy in Dakar. In 2017, he joined Norwegian top tier outfit Sarpsborg. However, he came into the scene when he arrived at the Jan Breydel Stadium a year later. Diatta also made his international debut in March 2019 and has featured in every match for the Lions of Teranga ever since.
A right-winger by trait, Diatta can also feature on the left and even in behind the striker. The 21-year-old is a skilful wide midfielder, who likes to drill in crosses or take on defenders. This season though Diatta has played more as a proper winger and his tendency to enter the box has also increased. It has also seen an upward curve in the quality of shots taken by the youngster as he has been involved in two-thirds of the goals scored by Philippe Clement’s side. Diatta also works hard, tracks back and helps out the defence and is already attracting interest from some of the top leagues.
5. Amadou Haidara (Midfielder- RB Leipzig)
Just like Mohamed Camara, Amadou Haidara’s career also started at the JMG Academy in Bamako. He made his breakthrough move in 2016, joining RB Salzburg and was an integral part of then manager Marco Rose’s midfield diamond. Just like other talents, the Malian midfielder also impressed at Salzburg and then in 2019 he took the well-trodden path to RB Leipzig. Haidara has grown in stature under the tutelage of Julian Nagelsmann but he is yet to cement his place in the starting XI.
Haidara is predominantly a defensive midfielder who can even operate in a more balanced or attacking role. His energy makes him a great squad player for Nagelsmann, who often uses the Malian as an impact substitution. Haidara isn’t physically imposing but he is a hard worker who averages 3.6 tackles per 90 minutes. Often compared with N’Golo Kante because of his relentless work rate and ability to break up play and at the same time effectively using the ball to push his team forward. Haidara has shown promise beyond years but he needs to keep himself fit if he wants to break into the Leipzig squad as a regular.
4. Youssoufa Moukoko (Forward- Borussia Dortmund)
Borussia Dortmund’s goalscoring starlet who recently made his Bundesliga debut has already arrived in the scene at the age of 16. Moukoko has been scoring goals for fun in the youth levels and was promoted to the first team at Signal Iduna Park. Moukoko has exquisite off the ball movements in the final third which helps him reach the right place at the right time. He has that natural goalscorer’s instinct and can even take on defenders at will.
The 16-year-old forward has shown traits way beyond his years and that’s why he is so highly rated in Dortmund. However, the teenager will face extreme challenges at the senior level and how he manages to adapt to this level and tackle his challenges will eventually define the player he will become in the coming years.
3. Edmond Tapsoba (Defender- Bayer Leverkusen)
The Bayer Leverkusen centre back saw his stakes rise when he joined Die Werkself last season in January from Portuguese outfit Vitoria Guimaraes. Tapsoba began his career in Burkina Faso and his move to Portugal changed his career altogether. After impressing for the reserves he was promoted to the Vitoria Guimaraes first team. The youngster became a mainstay at the heart of the defence and featured in Liga Nos along with the Europa League. Tracking his talent, Bayer Leverkusen came calling in January and since then his stakes have only gone in one direction.
Tapsoba made an immediate impact in Peter Bosz’s side, playing alongside German defender Jonathan Tah. His calm and composed demeanor compliments Bosz’s playing style. He is also very comfortable with the ball at his feet, which works well in the Dutchman’s favour. The Burkina Faso international is also very strong aerially which adds another string to his bow and it also makes him a centre back to watch out for.
2. Victor Osimhen (Forward- Napoli)
Another Nigerian in this list, but unlike others, Victor Osimhen has taken the big step in Europe by joining Napoli in the 2020-21 season. Osimhen’s breakthrough move was when he joined Wolfsburg in 2016. However, he was not ready for the senior level at that time, which was why his performance in the Bundesliga were not up to the mark. He re-established himself after joining Belgian outfit RSC Charleroi. He joined LOSC Lille in France and continued his goalscoring exploits. Osimhen finished the season scoring 18 goals and notching up six assists.
His exceptional form forced Napoli to break the bank for the 21-year-old, making him the club record transfer. Although Osimhen is yet to show his true potential in Naples this season as his tenure has been marred with injuries but Gennaro Gattuso believes that the Nigerian has immense potential to shine. Osimhen’s main strength is his pace and his tenacity to get in behind the opposition’s defence with his direct running.
Osimhen is well rounded with his pace, goalscoring instincts and strength on the ball. He can hold the play up and even cause mayhem if the team decides to play a counter-attacking system. While there is a lot of promise, the Nigerian needs to find his feet at Naples as quickly as possible and cement his place as a regular starter.
1. Ismael Bennacer (Midfielder- AC Milan)
The Algeria international falls into the category of young exciting centre midfielders who are technically very gifted. However unlike others, Bennacer often remains in the shadow and with the good work he has done at AC Milan, a big move awaits in the corner for the 23-year-old. Bennacer started his career in France at the Athletic Club Arles and then made a shock move to Arsenal youth academy. His stint at North London shaped him as a player and also as a man. He trained with top players there and learnt to stay away from his family.
But he learned the ropes at Empoli in Serie B as Bennacer helped them qualify for the Italian top tier. He got game time at Empoli, something which was missing at Arsenal and that experience helped him immensely. Later he flourished in the Serie A as well with Empoli and Milan snapped him up in 2019. Ever since joining Milan, Bennacer has grown in stature and has been the heart of the midfield for Stefano Pioli’s high flying Rossoneri.
The Algerian is an ideal holding midfielder who acts as a ball progressor when with possession and can break up play without it. Bennacer has been proving at Serie A for the last couple of seasons and a big move is just around the corner for him, just like other great African footballers before him.