African storylines to watch during the January transfer window
African players are regularly central to the key narratives of a transfer window, and January 2020 ought to be no different.
Already, Henry Onyekuru and Badou N’Diaye have secured moves — signing for Galatasaray and Trabzonspor on loan respectively — and we can expect the continent’s top stars to populate the rumour mill, and the done deal stories, until the start of February.
Here are some of the key African transfer narratives to keep tabs on over the coming weeks.
Kalidou Koulibaly is the most high-profile African player who could feasibly switch clubs in January, with Sadio Mane — another big-name target — highly unlikely to leave Liverpool for Real Madrid or anywhere else in the midst of Liverpool’s title challenge in the English Premier League.
Koulibaly has been rumoured to be close to a move to England for several transfer windows, with Chelsea and Manchester United among his most oft-associated suitors.
Both clubs remain linked, with Corriere del Mezzogiorno reporting that the Blues have opened discussions with the player’s agent about the possibility of the Senegal international moving to Stamford Bridge.
Koulibaly could also represent a statement arrival for new Tottenham Hotspur boss Jose Mourinho, who’d surely love to improve his defence following a series of inconsistent showings.
The West African could forge a terrific partnership with Toby Alderweireld, with the Belgian having recently signed a new contract, and Sky Sports have reported that Jan Vertonghen is interesting Napoli, potentially opening the possibility of him being a makeweight in any deal.
Everton, who recently appointed Koulibaly’s ex-Napoli boss, Carlo Ancelotti, are also reportedly targeting the defender.
Koulibaly would represent a massive coup for the Toffees, who would certainly benefit from his services in the heart of a troubled defence, but could they realistically tempt him to Goodison Park?
The Express has also reported that West Ham United are in the running for the Africa Cup of Nations finalist, with a fee of £70 million mooted by the tabloid.
Another centre-back tipped for a move in January is RB Leipzig’s Bissau-Guinean France Under-21 international Dayot Upamecano.
The youngster has built on his fine form last term to excel for the unlikely Bundesliga pace-setters this season, registering an average pass-success rate of 88.8% and averaging 2.5 tackles per match.
He’s also impressed in the UEFA Champions League, and central defenders of his potential are in short supply.
Will any of Europe’s big boys plump for his services this January?
German source Bild reported that Arsenal failed with a €60 million bid for the defender in the summer, but will they try and tempt Leipzig’s hand again?
Chelsea have been linked with LOSC Lille midfielder Boubakary Soumare, who has also represented France at Under-21 level but remains eligible for Senegal.
The 20-year-old, who has already drawn parallels with Paul Pogba, has made 17 Ligue 1 appearances this term, while also averaging three successful dribbles per match (the ninth highest in the competition) across six Champions League group games.
His potential is undoubted. He’d be an ideal fit for Frank Lampard’s youthful Blues side, but he might also be an ideal long-term replacement for Pogba at Old Trafford should the World Cup winner move on.
Sources informed ESPN in late 2019 that United were interested, but will the Red Devils make a move for the wonderkid this month? Foot Mercato believe that Wolverhampton Wanderers are also interested in his services, and have made a bid of €50million.
Crystal Palace have managed to keep hold of Wilfried Zaha through several transfer windows, but could this be the time when he finally tries his hand at a Premier League giant again?
He requested an exit in the summer only to remain at Selhurst Park, and Eagles coach Roy Hodgson, speaking ahead of the his side’s recent Premier League draw with Norwich City, acknowledged the Londoners may not stand in the way of a “serious” bid.
“You never know where bids are going to come from and I suppose every time there is a serious bid for one of your players the board of directors needs to take it seriously,” Hodgson said.
“We aren’t trying to sell Wilfried Zaha, we want to keep [him]. I have the assurance there is no one in the club that wants to sell Zaha.”
Chelsea have been linked with Zaha in recent weeks [per the Express], while Arsenal and Manchester United (again) have also been suggested destinations for the flamboyant wideman.
Sticking with United, it will be intriguing to see whether Ole Gunnar Solskjaer opts to exercise a clause in Eric Bailly’s contract to extend his deal by two years. If he doesn’t, the Ivory Coast international could be primed to depart on a free transfer this summer.
Wilfred Ndidi is another player tipped for a transfer within the Premier League, and the Nigerian’s fine form for Leicester City since arriving in January 2017 has prompted interest from some of the division’s bigger clubs.
Mikel Arteta will have some funds available this window as he looks to stamp his own identity on Unai Emery’s Arsenal squad, and Ndidi could represent an ideal target with Lucas Torreira and Granit Xhaka both linked with the exit door.
However, Leicester City, currently flying high in the standings, would be loath to part with the midfield anchorman, especially not to one of their would-be Champions League rivals, and Brendan Rodgers has indicated that no one will be departing the club.
“Nobody will leave here that we don’t want to go,” Rodgers said.
“I think we’ve had a couple of enquiries in terms of loans and for some of our younger players, but the players that are always talked about and mentioned, there will be nobody going.”
Leicester’s Kelechi Iheanacho had appeared primed for an exit from the club earlier in the season, but he is making the most of his opportunity in the first-team and is unlikely to be offloaded unless Rodgers can recruit a viable alternative to Jamie Vardy.
Unlike Iheanacho, Tottenham’s Victor Wanyama has not been given the opportunity to prove his worth in recent months, and it would be a surprise if he were still at White Hart Lane come the end of the window.
He was linked with a move to Trabzonspor in the summer, while former club Celtic are also reportedly interested in his signature, according to the Daily Record.
Could one of the Premier League’s strugglers also take a punt on the Kenya captain, who knows the top flight well?
At the bottom of the table, it remains to be seen how much Aston Villa have to spend, having invested heavily in the squad during the summer.
In this context, rumours of interest in free agent Emmanuel Adebayor don’t appear too wide of the mark.
The Togo legend lit up the Premier League a decade ago, and, while he’s now past his prime at 35, his experience and athleticism could serve Villa well as they look to beat the drop.
He’s been there before, of course, signing a short-term deal under Alan Pardew’s Palace as the Eagles beat the drop.
Despite his age, Ade’s goalscoring hasn’t dried up during his time in Turkish football, and he scored 15 goals in 30 matches as recently as the 2017-18 season.
In Ligue 1, Eduardo Camavinga of Stade Rennais and Lille’s Victor Osimhen have been familiar faces in the rumour mill recently.
The former has been linked with heavyweights such as Paris Saint-Germain and Spurs, with Real Madrid understood to have sent scouts to watch him in action, according to AS.
Rennes president Olivier Letang has also told Telefoot that some European clubs have approached the club regarding the Angola-born wonderkid’s future.
Osimhen, a summer arrival at Lille, is unlikely to move so soon, but 10 goals in 12 top-flight outings have seen him the subject of reported interest from Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham, according to Sky Sports.