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African soccer stars who flopped in the English Premier League

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When English Premier League giants, Arsenal, paid French club Lille, a whopping £72 million which was a club record, for Ivorian winger, Nicolas Pepe, the move was seen as one that would take the club to great heights.

The previous season, 2018/2019, Pepe had scored 22 goals and provided 11 assists for the modest Lille and the then Arsenal coach Unai Emery pulled every trick to prize him away from the French league for the princely sum which was also a record for an African player.

Signing a top-class winger has been one of our key objectives in this transfer window and I’m delighted he’s joining.

“He will add pace, power and creativity, with the aim of bringing more goals to our team,”  Emeri had said at the time.

But three years after completing the club-record fee, Pepe has neither lived up to the expectation or the lofty dreams the Gunners had when he was snapped up.

Pepe has been a flop in North London having been sidelined by youngster Bukayo Saka and with Gunner’s coach Mikel Arteta, trying everything possible sign Leeds winger Raphinha, Pepe’s days may be numbered.

But the Ivorian star is not the only African player who did not light up the EPL as there have been others who flopped in the league when there were high hopes on their acquisition.

Africanewswatch brings you a rundown of the continent soccer stars who failed to live up to the billings in the EPL.

Eric Djemba-Djemba: Man United

When Manchester United signed Cameroonian midfielder, Eric Djemba-Djemba, the fans were expecting a repeat of his exploits at Nantes of France and his impressive performance at the 2002 Africa Cup of Nations which Cameroon won.

The idea was for him to replace club legend, Roy Keane, who just hung up his boots but Djemba-Djemba was nothing close to Keane’s shadow as he was do bad the fans dubbed him flop of the century.

Man U had so much hopes on the Cameroon midfielder but he was not just a hopeless player but one who could not do the simplest thing right.

Nicolas Pepe: Arsenal

Arsenal decided to fork out £72 million for Pepe instead of Wilfried Zaha in the summer of 2019, despite Unai Emery reportedly preferring the Crystal Palace man.

£72 million was a significant amount of money for the Gunners to part with but it looked like a bargain buy for a player who scored 22 goals and had 11 assists for Lille.

It made sense at that time to sign Pepe as he clearly had immense talent to burn.

However, he has only been able to demonstrate this talent on rare occasions while on other occasions, he has flattered to deceive, often frustrating the Gunners fans.

After a false dawn in the Premier League in the 2020-21 season, Pepe followed it up with an under par and disappointing 2021-2022 where he was a bit part player, contributing only three goals throughout the season.

Eric Bailly: Man United

Again, Manchester United thought they had found a replacement for Rio Ferdinand when they signed Ivorian defender, Eric Bailly, but it was another gamble that did not go as planned as he not only flopped but became a sort of liability for the club.

Manchester United had placed so much hope and faith in Bailly and thought he would help solve their defensive problems but anytime he is on the pitch, it has been one calamity or the other at the back for the red devils.

His is also not helped by injuries which have kept him in the lurch for several months but whenever he comes back into the team, he has also covered himself in glory.

Mbwana Samatta: Aston Villa

Aston Villa thought they had found the answer to their goal scoring problems when they signed Tanzanian striker Mbwana Samatta from Fernrbache in 2020.

In his first two games, Samatta shown like a million stars, helping Villa reach the EFL Cup final, and netted on his league debut against Bournemouth.

He would also score in the Villains’ final defeat by Manchester City, but that was as good as it got, as the striker never came close to justifying his £8.5 million fee.

In his 14 appearances for the club, Samatta only managed one goal and was shipped back to Ferne at the end of the season.

Wilfried Bony: Man City

When Ivorian Wilfried Bony left Swansea to sign for Manchester City in 2017 in a £28 million move, having translated his Eredivisie goalscoring form to the Premier League.

However, while he had been able to find the back of the next in the colours of the Swans, he found it difficult to replicate same at the Etihad Stadium as he struggled to score the crucial goals the Citizens bought him for.

His case was not also helped by injuries and the form of Sergio Aguero who was the hottest striker in the EPL at the time.

By the time he moved on loan to Stoke City in 2016, he had fallen down the pecking order behind rookie Nigerian striker, Kelechi Iheanacho, who was signed straight after winning the Under 17 World Cup. Bony never regained his previous goalscoring form and is currently plying his trade with NEC Nijmegen in the Netherlands after stints in Saudi Arabia with Al-Arab and Al-Ittihad.

Jean Makoun: Aston Villa

While playing for Lyon, Cameroonian midfielder Jean Makoun was tipped to follow the likes of Michael Essien and Mahamadou Diarra to translate successful spells in the EPL when he signed for Aston Villa for £6.2 million.

But Makoun struggled to adapt to life in the Premier League and departed after just nine league games, costing Villa just under £700,000 per appearance, not including wages.

Bebe: Man United

Many Africans thought Man U flop par excellence, Bebe, was from Portugal player when he moved from the Poruguese league to Manchester United.

But Bebe is as African from the Island nation of Cape Verde. He actually cost
United a reported £7.4 million when the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson signed him from Vitoria Guimaraes. Fergie was to later confess that he’d never seen the Bebe play but signed him on the recommendation of a top soccer agent. But Bebe was a big scam!

United fans saw little more of him; as Bebe, who had bounced back from homelessness to forge a professional career, managed only two league appearances at Old Trafford before returning to Portugal.

The winger who currently plays for Rayo Vallecano, made his Cape Verde debut earlier this year.

Savio Nsereko: West Ham United

West Ham United thought they had s bargain when they splashed £9 million for a Ugandan teenager, Savio Nsereko, who came with a huge potential from Brescia.

But his talent was not able to take him far as he demonstrated precious little to suggest that he was worth such an amount.

Savio started just one match, failed to score, and was soon shipped backed to Italy and Fiorentina.

He’s currently playing in the German lower leagues, and is yet to be capped by either Germany or Uganda.

Chris Samba: Queens Park Rangers

Congolese defender Chris Samba was signed by QPR for a whopping £12.5 million in a late bid to stave off relegation and on a reported £100,000 weekly salary, Samba returned to England after a brief spell in Russia, having previously been a hit with Blackburn Rovers.

QPR fans had high hopes that Samba would help them escape relegation but the centre-back would soon fall out with the club’s fanbase while contributing a series of underwhelming showings as they dropped into the second tier.

He hung up his boots after last playing for Aston Villa in 2018.

Benni McCarthy: West Ham United

South African striker Benni McCarthy, was supposed to be the next big thing when the Hammers snapped him up from Blackburn Rovers after a spectacular season.

The Bafana Bafana record goal scorer who had impressed at Blackburn Rovers, was, however, past his best when he arrived in East London for £2.25 million.

He struggled with injury and fitness problems, was sidelined for six weeks on his debut, and was also criticised by the club’s hierarchy, and could not replicate his Rovers form.

He was shipped out after enduring the butt of jokes from the fans who could not wait for him to be let off his misery.

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Nigeria’s Taiwo Awoniyi makes history as he scores Nottingham Forest’s first EPL goal in 23 years

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Nigeria’s Super Eagles striker, Taiwo Awoniyi has entered into the history books of Nottingham Forest as he netted The Reds first Premier League goal after 23 years as the EPL new boys pipped West Ham 1-0 on Sunday.

Awoniyi was up and running in his second game of the season and scored the only goal in Nottingham Forest’s 1-0 win over West Ham at City ground.

This was Awoniyi’s first full start for the Tricky Trees after coming on as a second-half sub in the 2-0 loss to Newcastle in the first match of season.

The Nigeria international’s first-half goal separated both teams in the keenly contested match which saw Dean Henderson save and a disallowed West Ham goal, saw him become the 37th Nigerian to score in the EPL.

The former Union Berlin forward was handed the starting shirt alongside Jesse Lingard and Brennan Johnson in a three-man attack and came close to opening his account in the early minutes but his header from Neco Williams’ cross sailed over Lukasz Fabianski’s crossbar.

Just before the break, Awoniyi struck albeit in a scrappy manner as the ball hit his knee and flew past Fabiansky to settle in the back of the net.

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Ballon d’Or: Do African nominees, Mane, Salah, Mahrez, Haller, Oshoala stand any chance?

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It is pleasant news that five African players have been nominated for the Ballon d’Or award with Egypt and Liverpool forward, Mohamed Salah, topping the list.

Other African stars, Sadio Mane of Senegal, Algerian Riyad Mahrez, Ivory Coast striker, Sebastien Haller and Nigerian Super Falcons and Barcelona striker, Asisat Oshoala, also made the shortlist released on Friday.

So far, former Liberian captain, George Weah, is the only African to have won the Ballon d’Or award which he picked up in 1995 while playing for AC Milan.

With the five African stars nominated to battle the likes of France and Real Madrid striker, Karim Benzema, and his national team mate, Killian Mbape of PSG, it is left to be seen if the continent stars stand any chance of following in Weah’s footsteps.

Here, Africanewswatch takes a look at the five and their chances of picking the prestigious award.

Mohamed Salah

This is the fourth time the Egyptian forward will be getting a Ballon d’Or nomination with his best finish being fifth position in 2019. In 2018, he was sixth in 2018, and seventh in 2021.

This could be Salah’s best chance of winning the award after scooping the Premier League PFA Players’ Player of the Year Award last seasonThe Liverpool striker scored 31 goals in all competitions (23 in the league) and 15 assists for Liverpool to win the Premier League Golden Boot Award as the Reds won the FA and Carabao Cups and reached the Champions League final.

Mohamed Salah with his PFA award (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

Mohamed Salah with his PFA award (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

The only setback to an otherwise fantastic season was Egypt losing the 2021 Afcon to a Sadio Mané inspired Senagal in Cameroon as well as missing the 2022 World Cup.

Sadio Mané

Sadio Mané’s status as the reigning African Player of the Year should propel him to give the award a big shout following his brilliant form for club and country.

The Senegal and Bayern Munich strike star netted 23 goals for Liverpool in the EPL, won the FA and Carabao Cups, reached the final of the Champions League, led Senegal to her first Afcon trophy before ending with the African Player of the Year.

African player of the year,  Sadio Mane (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

African player of the year, Sadio Mane (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

To add to a spectacular year, Mane was instrumental to qualifying Senegal for the Qatar World Cup at the expense of Egypt.

Three years ago, Mane was also nominated for the Ballon d’Or where he finished fourth behind Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Virgil van Dijk.

Riyad Mahrez

Algerian captain and Manchester City winger, Riyad Mahrez is another African star who has been nominated for the Ballon d’Or after a fantastic season for the EPL Champions where he scored 24 goals and notched up nine assists as Pep Guardiola’s men romped to the Premier League title.

He also scored crucial goals as Man City reached the semi finals of the Champions League and the FA Cup.

Riyad Mahrez is also in with a shout (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

Riyad Mahrez is also in with a shout (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

He could, however, not replicate his fine club form for Algeria following a dismal outing at the Afcon in Cameroon as they were eliminated in the group stage.

Mahrez has been nominated for the Ballon d’Or three times before now.

Sebastien Haller

From every indication, Sebastien Haller of Ivory Coast is an outsider when it comes to winning the Ballon d’Or even with his impressive outing for Ajax last season.

He was the Dutch club’s highest goal scorer with 34 goals and seven assists in all competitions and won the Eredivisie Golden Boot Award after scoring 21 league goals.

Sebastien Haller may just be making up the number (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

Sebastien Haller may just be making up the number (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

But the newly signed Borussia Dortmund forward did not have a great run for the national team as the Ivorians were knocked out of the Afcon by Egypt in the round of 16.

Asisat Oshoala

Nigeria’s Super Falcons and Barcelona forward, Asisat Oshoala is the only African female player nominated in the women’s category, following a fantastic season with the Spanish team where she scored 20 goals and took home the women Pichichi award.

Oshoala was a strong force in the Barca attack as they won the league, Super Cup and Copa de la Reina titles.

She also won the female version of the African Player of the Year for the fifth time, the first by any player in the continent.

Asisat Oshoala is the first African woman to be nominated for the  Ballon d'Or (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

Asisat Oshoala is the first African woman to be nominated for the Ballon d’Or (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

However, her chances of winning the Ballon d’Or got slimmer after the Super Falcons failed to retain their Women’s Africa Cup of Nations crown in Morocco where she played only one match after suffering an injury in their tournament’s first match.

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