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Sports News of Wednesday, 30 December 2020


Who were Africa’s under-the-radar stars of 2020?

Andre Ayew has been in sterling form for Swansea City Andre Ayew has been in sterling form for Swansea City

Imperious in the heart of the Wolves defence alongside Conor Coady as the Old Gold finished seventh, a case could be made that the towering centre-back was the best player in his position in the top flight after Virgil van Dijk.

This season hasn’t been quite as eye-catching for the defender or his teammates, although Boly has become an international after finally committing himself to the Ivory Coast.

Diadie Samassekou

Currently leading the way in the Bundesliga for both tackles per match and interceptions per match, there isn’t a central midfielder in the division who can touch the Malian for defensive contribution right now.

His reading of the game, willingness to get stuck in, and awesome engine have combined to make him a superb asset for Hoffenheim, even if his meagre offensive output means he’s unlikely to get too many plaudits.

Despite the 24-year-old’s contributions, Hoffenheim have the joint-fourth leakiest defence in the German top flight.

Imagine what kind of state they’d be in without him…!

Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa

The Cameroon international’s first season in England, during the 2018-19 campaign, was a miserable experience, as he and Fulham were relegated at the first attempt.

He rediscovered his form on loan at Villarreal, and despite rumours linking him with a move to Real Madrid, has been a star back at Craven Cottage after returning from Spain.

He’s been influential as the Cottagers have settled in the Prem and begun to eke out points, with the powerhouse’s dominant displays in the heart of the park critical to their success.

At the time of writing, Zambo Anguissa is the second most effective dribbler and the fifth most effective tackler in the Premier League.

Ismael Bennacer

The likes of Hakan Calhanoglu, Theo Hernandez and Franck Kessie may be seen as the key protagonists in AC Milan’s superb start to the season, but Algeria’s Bennacer has been an unsung hero of this Rossoneri team as they’ve taken a grip on top spot in Serie A.

He’s proved to be the ‘brains’ of this Milan team, using the ball intelligently, recycling possession effectively and inspiring those around him with his leadership skills.

The North African has built on his success at the Nations Cup—when he was named Player of the Tournament—and is proving to be a quality midfield all-rounder for Stefano Pioli.

Andre Ayew

It’s no secret that, at 31 and supposedly in the prime of his career, Ayew doesn’t want to be playing in the Championship with Swansea City.

He could surely be playing at a higher level—as he proves week in, week out—but deserves credit for how he’s got his head down and continued to showcase his qualities in the second tier.

Last term, he scored 16 and contributed seven assists to drag the Swans into an unlikely playoff berth, and despite offseason rumours linking him with a move to Paris Saint-Germain, he’s knuckled down to have a hand in 10 goals in his first 20 league outings of this season.

Wilfred Ndidi

Leicester City players like Jamie Vardy and James Maddison receive many more plaudits than Ndidi, while other central midfielders like Thomas Partey get significantly more attention than the Nigeria international.

However, Ndidi’s impact in the Foxes midfield—and in their achievements under Brendan Rodgers—cannot be underestimated.

Last term when he was absent, and this year when he’s been injured, the Foxes have lacked the same control in games—and struggled for the same success—while only Ricardo Pereira and Diego Rico averaged more tackles and interceptions per match respectively than Ndidi last season.

Will 2021 be the year when he finally gets a move to one of Europe’s giants?