How the Africa Cup of Nations could affect Europe’s top five leagues

The Africa Cup of Nations, which runs from 13 January to 11 February, will strip Europe’s top five leagues (France, Italy, Spain, Germany and England) of possibly 226 players for a month.

That is the number of African players who have been capped at some point by one of the 24 teams in the tournament and who are pursuing their careers in Europe’s top leagues. The final call-ups will be announced over the next few days. It will undoubtedly be a major setback for the clubs, who, to a greater or lesser extent, will lose important players for up to a month.

As reported by Relevo via EFE, the club that could lose the most players is Ligue 1 side Metz. The French club has up to 11 players who have been called up to their national teams at some point. They are Jallow, Traoré, Candé, Maïga, Camara, Tetteh, Mbaye, Dialló, Oukidja, Van den Kerkhof and Sabaly. Some of them are key players for Metz, who will not be able to count on the goalscoring contribution of names like Jallow, Dialló and Sabaly, who have scored eight, seven and six goals respectively this year.

The second most affected team on the continent could be Nottingham Forest. Up to seven players (Auier, Kouyaté, Sangaré, Aina, Boly, Awoniyi and Niakhaté) could miss a month of Premier League action. Some, like Auier, are recovering from injury, but could make it in time to be called up. But the departure that will probably hurt new head coach Nuno Espírito Santo the most will be that of Nigerian Awoniyi, who has 12 goals in 2023.

Xabi Alonso’s Bayer Leverkusen

Bayer Leverkusen’s Xabi Alonso will have to continue his fine form in the Bundesliga without five players. If they are called up for international duty, he could be without Tapsoba, Kossounou, Boniface, Adli and Tella. Undoubtedly, the departure of Nigeria’s Boniface, who has scored 16 goals this season, would be the toughest blow for the Spanish head coach.

In La Liga, Almeria, with four possible absentees, are the worst affected in a competition in which only Real Madrid, Barcelona, Getafe and Osasuna would not lose any of their players. Lowly Almería could have to manage without Baba, Lopy, Mendes and Marciano.

Athletic Club without Iñaki Williams

Las Palmas will be without Kaba, Saúl Coco and Mfulu, provided they are called up by their national teams. Iñaki Williams (Athletic), Reinildo (Atlético), Bebé and Pathe Ciss (Rayo Vallecano), Sadiq and Traoré (Real Sociedad) and En-Nesyri (Sevilla) are some of the big names in La Liga who could be gone for a month.

In Italy, Udinese and Salernitana have five African players who may be involved in the competition. They are the most affected in Serie A, where bigger clubs such as Milan, Napoli and Roma would lose two of their players each (Bennacer, Samu Chukwueze, Anguissa, Victor Osimhen, Ndicka and Aouar).

Other star names including Salah (Liverpool), Boulaye Dia (Salernitana), Marmoush (Eintracht), Guirassy (Stuttgart), Guilavogui (Lens), Moffi (Nice), Nuamah (Lyon), Magri (Toulouse), Kudus (West Ham) or Haller (Dortmund) will be out of European action as they represent their respective countries.

Ligue 1 will be the most affected, with 88 possible departures. With 48, the Premier League is next. Serie A could be left without 37 players, La Liga without 27 and the Bundesliga without 26.

Kieran Quaile | GSFN

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