Rating Africa's Magnificent Seven

With the transfer window having 'slammed shut', Just Football editor and FFT.com blogger Jonathan Fadugba casts his eye over the biggest transfers involving African players this summer...

"Nigerians for sale! Nigerians for sale!"

David Moyes is not a 19th century boot shine carrying out suspiciously shady backdoor activities. But if he was, (and after this let us never consider this disturbingly grim prospect again), he might well have been found outside Goodison Park, flatcap in hand, bellowing those exact words in the summer.

For Everton’s manager did his best to rid the club of all three senior Nigerian talents on the blue half of Merseyside, shipping one – Joseph Yobo to Fenerbahce – while inviting offers for the other two, Victor Anichebe and Yakubu.

As it transpired, Moyes could only flip one of the three, but that did not stop what was the merriest of merry go-rounds for African players in the summer transfer market. In this column let’s assess some of the bigger moves, and analyse the outlook for player and club in kind:

1, Asamoah Gyan – Stade Rennais to Sunderland, £13 million

Arguably the highest profile move of the summer from an African perspective involved the player who most rose to prominence during the World Cup, albeit by way of being the central figure behind one of the tournament’s most extraordinarily dramatic moments.

Asamoah Gyan - hero, then villain, then quasi-martyr figure - completed a lucrative move to the Premier League, joining Sunderland for a club record fee ìin excess of £13 millionî according to his new employers.

While some World Cup signings tend to be more out of impulse than anything else, I do think the move comes at the right time for the player. Gyan is 24, has experienced life in Serie A and latterly France’s Ligue 1, without really making his mark in either country, and is now both experienced and mature enough to be able to really sink his teeth into a new environment and advance his career at club level.

Gyan was criticised for the penalty miss that would have taken Ghana past Uruguay and into the World Cup semi finals in South Africa, but to me such condemnation misses the point completely. Anyone can miss a penalty. But few have the strength of mind to then proceed to take the first spot kick of an ensuing penalty shootout and find the top corner.

Such inner strength should hold Gyan in good stead on Wearside, where his price tag and World Cup track record mean he will be expected to make an impact almost immediately.

Compatibility rating / likeliness to succeed: 7/10

2, Yaya Toure – FC Barcelona to Manchester City, £24 million

An interesting move for the Ivorian, who found himself surplus to requirements at the Camp Nou and so headed to Eastlands for an eye-watering £24 million fee plus a wage amounting to £220,000 per week.

Having lost his place in the Barca team to Sergio Busquets, (Toure completed 90 minutes only nine times in 38 league games for his club last season), Manchester City were only too willing to supply the cash needed to unite Toure junior with big brother Kolo.

While clearly an extortionate transfer, Toure will definitely improve City. His polished touch and technique tell the tale of a man refined by the elegance of Barcelona’s coaching methods, and his sheer physical power and strength will further tighten an already athletic midfield. In short, Yaya Toure is the kind of player that can take City to the next level.  

Compatibility rating: 8.5/10

3, Mamadou Niang – Olympique Marseille to Fenerbahce, £7 million

The eighth highest scorer in the history of Olympique Marseille and top scorer in Ligue 1 last season, Mamadou Niang was absolutely fundamental to Marseille’s league and cup double of 2009/2010, contributing 18 goals as captain.

Niang is perhaps lesser known when compared to higher profile African strikers like Samuel Eto’o, Didier Drogba and Emmanuel Adebayor, but as top African centre forwards go he can certainly hold his own in such illustrious company.

A traditionall No.9, Niang is predominantly right-footed but adept with his left, strong in the air and likes to play on the shoulder of defences. He also has that poacher’s knack of popping up in the right place at the right time. In the last three seasons, nobody in France scored more than his 49 goals.

Scorer of 100 goals in five seasons for Marseille, Niang’s move to Turkey became inevitable after the Senegalese striker hinted at a move in the summer. Marseille were reluctant to let him go, but at nearly 31 and with the player’s future uncertain he was allowed to leave. Niang wanted a move to England, but has landed at Fenerbahce where he has already hit two in two games. He will do well there.

Compatibility rating: 8/10

4, Marouane Chamakh – Girondins Bordeaux to Arsenal, free transfer

Unlike Niang, Marouane Chamakh did get his desired move to the Premier League, pitching up at Arsenal on a free transfer after running down his contract at Bordeaux.

An important component of Laurent Blanc’s league title winning team of 2008/09, Chamakh is however not quite the prolific striker some have made out. The Moroccan managed a 1 in 4 strike rate in France, hitting 56 goals in 230 Ligue 1 matches. The challenge for him in North London will be to up that ratio.

Nonetheless, Chamakh gives Arsenal a dimension they have lacked since Adebayor’s departure – that of a powerful target man who leads the line with authority and can dominate any aerial battles. A better Bendtner if you will.

It will be intriguing to see how the Moroccan fares in England, a league his game seems naturally suited to.

Compatibility rating: 7.5/10

5, Kevin Prince Boateng – Portsmouth to Genoa to AC Milan, £5 million

Arguably the best performing African footballer at the World Cup, Kevin Prince Boateng completed a move from Portsmouth to Genoa, before heading straight out on loan to AC Milan.

A strange move this. Boateng would have been an excellent signing for Genoa, but they have merely acted like friendly neighbours in the deal, footing the bill for the dynamic midfielder while Milan unwrap themselves from the financial burden of a number of players with one year left on their contracts.

Milan then pulled a fast one on their Serie A colleagues by going off and splurging millions on Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Robinho. For Genoa it must be akin to lending your poverty-pleading next door neighbour twenty pounds to buy groceries, only for them to turn up the next day in a brand new Ferrari.

For the player too, the move now looks untimely as Boateng will struggle to fit into a team packed with Hollywood names. A shame, as he desperately needs to carry the momentum of an excellent World Cup into his thus far nomadic, unsettled club career.

Compatibility rating: 5/10

6, Ahmed El Mohamady – ENPPI to Sunderland, £500,000 initial deal

Another shrewd signing by Steve Bruce, who has a habit of picking up highly promising players from untapped markets for very reasonable fees (think Wilson Palacios, Maynor Figueroa etc).

El Mohamady is a player I picked out at the African Cup of Nations 2010 (http://www.just-football.com/2010/02/african-cup-of-nations-2010-team-of/) after he excelled down the right hand side as wingback in Egypt’s 3-5-2 system, and the former ENPPI right-back-cum-winger’s stamina and versatility mark him out as a player with a very bright future.

It also appears his transition to English football has been seamless – El Mohamady was named man of the match on Sunderland’s official website for the 1-0 win over Manchester City. A great signing.

Compatibility rating: 8.5/10

7, Peter Odemwingie – Lokomotiv Moscow to West Bromwich Albion, undisclosed fee

Sadly most of the talk about this move was less about the player and more the racist banner unveiled by Lokomotiv fans to celebrate Odemwingie’s departure (though any racist connotations have been denied by many in Russia – ahem, yeah right).

That aside, the move is an intriguing one for an enigmatic player who, when the mood takes him, can be quite dazzling.

I remember being there to see him play for Lille against Manchester United in 2007 and he was excellent; vibrant upfront and unlucky to have a goal disallowed by a dubious offside call. Odemwingie was an important part of the Lille side that qualified for the Champions League three times in five seasons under Claude Puel.

A star turn for Nigeria (when not having run-ins with the coach), Odemwingie has won over 50 caps for the Super Eagles, and will add to Roberto Di Matteo’s options through sheer flexibility. He can play as a lone striker, off a target man in a 4-4-2, either side of a 4-3-3 attacking trident or as an advanced wide forward.

A big move for the player, whose career has drifted somewhat over the last three years in Russia. At 29 this is a handsome opportunity.

Compatibility rating: 7/10

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