Four African Players To Watch Out For in the UEFA Champions League Semi-Finals

0
5592

Associazione Calcio Milan, commonly known as AC Milan, or simply Milan defeated Série À league leaders Napoli for the third time of asking this season in all competitions to book a place in the final four of Europe’s top tier competition – the UCL.

Internazionale, commonly known as Inter Milan or simply Inter, also held on to a 3-all draw against Benfica at the San Siro to qualify for the semis, setting up a mouthwatering Derby Della Madonnina after surpassing the Portuguese champions 5-3 on aggregate score.

Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City usurped their German counterpart Bayern Munich with new manager Thomas Tuchel in their ranks, to book a semi-final showdown against Europe’s most successful team Real Madrid.

Madrid, who are defending champions will look to go one better and make it fifteen (15) Champions League titles should they go the distance come May.

Three of the four teams to feature in the final four have African players in their ranks who have distinguished themselves this season based on form, fitness, and performance, drawing more interest and focus on how far they can go with their teams.

Two of the four African players currently play for AC Milan, and both were born in France but play for different African nations. One other was also born in France but represents Senegal internationally, while the fourth was born, bred, and represents the Cameroon national football team.

Here are the four African players in the UCL Semis currently drawing interest from global fans.

Fodé Ballo-Touré

Born in the commune of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, located in the southwestern suburbs of Paris, France, Fodé was born to a Malian father and a Senegalese mother, providing the avenue to represent three nationalities – Senegal, Mali, and France.

The 26-year-old opted to play for Senegal, making his debut in 2021, and was part of the 2022 AFCON winning squad, and also won the scudetto with AC Milan last term.

Since then, he has played 21 games for the Rossoneri, since his €5.40 million move from Monaco to AC Milan, also featuring 15 times for Senegal this far. He has scored a goal even as a defender in his five Série À games, plus four in the UCL.

Riyad Karim Mahrez

Born in Sarcelles, France, to an Algerian father from Beni Snous, Tlemcen District, and a mother of both Algerian and Moroccan descent, Riyad Mahrez has gone on to make a name for himself for both club and country.

Making his international debut for Algeria in 2014, the 32-year-old has featured for the Foxes in one World Cup (2014), and four AFCON competitions (2015 – 2021), clinching the CAF’s African Footballer of the Year in 2016.

He’s also one of the rare players to have won the EPL title with two different English clubs (Leicester in 2015-16 & Mancity in 2018-19, 2020-21, & 2021-22) following his €67.8 million move from the former to the latter in 2018.

A UCL title will inadvertently add color to his trophy cabinet.

Andre Onana

Born in Cameroon, and descending from the same, Inter Milan goalie André Onana stands strong between the sticks for his club, after withdrawing early from international football following a row with coach Rigobert Song in Qatar ’22.

Bsnsports.com.ng reported the bust-up between the player and his coach regarding game approach disagreements, consequently leading to Onana leaving camp and the competition as a whole.

This season, Onana has kept an impressive six clean sheets out of ten games, shutting out the likes of Barcelona, Porto, and Benfica, while conceding fewer goals than the number of games played in the Série À.

There are calls for Onana to be reinstated back into the Indomitable Lion’s squad, notably a South African writer for bbc.com – Stephane Mbia – who feels his quality as a goalkeeper is needed following Cameroon’s failure to qualify for next year’s AFCON.

Ismaël Bennacer

Bennacer was born in Arles, France to a Moroccan father and an Algerian mother, with the 25-year-old opting to play for Algeria internationally.

Since making his international debut for the Eagles in 2016, Ismaël has featured in three AFCON tournaments, winning the 2019 edition, while bagging the Player of the Tournament award that same year.

Bennacer signed for the Rossoneri in 2019 from Empoli for €17.2 million and has become an integral part of the side, winning the scudetto last term, and qualifying for the UCL Semis this term.