Talentspotter

Africa Cup of Nations: 11 stars eager to put themselves in the shop window

Serge Aurier
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5. Mario Lemina (Gabon)

The 23-year-old has struggled for game time in Turin this term, starting only six matches in Serie A

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is undoubtedly Gabon’s star man, but Juventus’s all-action midfielder Mario Lemina will also be essential to the host nation’s chances of a successful tournament.

The 23-year-old has struggled for game time in Turin this term, though, starting only six matches in Serie A. But while his principal focus will be on his country in the next few weeks, he may also be looking to catch attention from England (Arsenal, Stoke and Leicester have previously been linked) and Germany via RB Leipzig, who are thought to be keeping tabs on the former France Under-21 international. 

6. Vincent Aboubakar (Cameroon)

With Samuel Eto’o no longer around the 24-year-old will be relied upon for goals

Cameroon’s pre-tournament preparations haven’t been the smoothest, with Liverpool’s Joel Matip, West Brom’s Allan Nyom and five other players rejecting a call-up to Hugo Broos’ squad last month. Vincent Aboubakar is one man who will be involved, though, and with Samuel Eto’o no longer around the 24-year-old will be relied upon for goals.

Currently on loan at Besiktas from Porto, Aboubakar was linked with a permanent switch to Everton last summer and will be out to impress any club scouts who are deployed to Gabon to watch him.

Vincent Aboubakar

Given their high-profile absences, Cameroon will lean heavily on Aboubakar

7. Keita Balde Diao (Senegal)

The former Barcelona youth product is a speedy and tricky dribbler with an eye for goal

Senegal are many pundits’ tip to lift the trophy in Libreville next month, and Lazio forward Keita Balde Diao is set to form one third of an electric frontline alongside Sadio Mane and Mame Biram Diouf.

The former Barcelona youth product is a speedy and tricky dribbler with an eye for goal – he’s found the net five times in 16 league appearances for his club this term – and will be watched closely by apparent admirers Manchester United, Milan and Liverpool.

8. Serge Aurier (Ivory Coast)

The 24-year-old’s talent isn’t in doubt, but disciplinary issues off the pitch mean potential suitors will have to think long and hard before launching a bid for his services

Ivory Coast triumphed in the 2015 edition and are among the favourites to claim the title in Gabon this time around. Not only will Serge Aurier be central to the Elephants’ efforts, some positive performances could also help to determine his future at club level: the PSG right-back is reportedly attracting interest from Barcelona, while Milan have also identified him as a leading target.

The 24-year-old’s talent isn’t in doubt, but disciplinary issues off the pitch mean potential suitors will have to think long and hard before launching a bid for his services – in February 2016 he was suspended by his club for abusing team-mate Angel Di Maria and manager Laurent Blanc in an online video Q&A; then, in September he was found guilty of assaulting a police officer and missed a Champions League trip to Arsenal after the UK government revoked his visa.