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Top Must-Watch Strikers in North Africa

Ducor Sports gives a breakdown of the top four strikers who could cut it big in the European leagues.

Rarely are strikers in the north of the continent given much attention in the African media and beyond. Ducor Sports gives a breakdown of the top four strikers who could cut it big in the European leagues.

Zakaria Naidji

Zakaria-NaidjiA time like this last year, the Algerian Premier League top scorer had scored in 18 goals in 30 games. These numbers are made to look ordinary by new star-of-the-moment Zakaria Naidji who has plundered in 17 goals with five more games to spare to the season’s end.

Last term golden boot winner Oussama Darfalou immediately signed for Chelsea’s feeder outfit Vitesse Anhrem in the Eredivisie.

The 25-year-old’s switch to the Netherlands came much as a surprise, at a time when North African players are more focused on raking up the money in the leagues in Saudi, Qatar and its environs.

In Zakaria’s case, there is no denying he’s headed for a similar path and is attracting even bigger suitors after scoring double figures.

Of interest to his admirers is his non-reliance on spot-kicks as most modern goal-getters of the game are wont to. Ten of the 17 goals have been first goals and hence explains the transformation AC Paradou from contended mid-table occupants to third-place chasers.

Often sporting a Mohawk hairstyle, the 24-year-old’s inclusion in a star-studded team for Algeria’s qualifiers is evident of how far he’s come.

“Born to score” was seasoned a pundit’s description of the erstwhile U-23s national team striker.

Having never scored beyond 11 goals in a single season, Naidji has not only stormed the spotlight but claimed a firm place in it. From jaw-dropping, simple tap-ins to strong out-of-the-box blasts, he has scored them all this year.

Qatar sides are waiting in the wings but overtures look stronger from outfits in France’s top tier. Dribbling, pace and perfect-timings are features that make him a standout.

Watch him here:

Taha Yassine Khenissi

Yassine-KhenissiIn counting down the top players in North Africa, he will undoubtedly make the top three. A two-time Total CAF Champions League winner and five-time Tunisian Domestic Premier League champion, Taha is a mainstay in Tunisia’s national team. His experience belies his age.  Firing past the net a combined 57 goals in 135 cameos since 2011, Khenissi has an insatiable taste for goals. The towering forward is on ten so far –one better than the nine he managed the previous season.

Esperance de Tunis shook heaven and earth in a bid to retain their prized possession last January. He presents himself as the perfect goal-scorer. Calm and quick-footed, the 27-year-old is a fan favorite, getting fans off their seats. The right-footer is one of few domestic players guaranteed a starting spot in the Carthage Eagles’ set up.

Valued in excess of one million pounds, Taha’s legion of admirers hail from the Middle East.

Watch him here:

Ahmed Ali Kamel

ali-kamelA consistent goal scorer, over the past two years, he has evolved into a reliable striker who has earned notoriety among defenders as the man who sends shivers down the spines of back fours. To lead the scoring standings in the Presentation-sponsored Egyptian Premier League requires more than a dose of self-belief, and at 32, it is amazing how Kamel slips around defenses with the agility of a teenager. Pace is another quality he possesses and thus little wonder why Al Ahly had lurked in the background for long. They were hoping to match his £400,000 market valuation to bolster their squad and complement star forward Moroccan-born Walid Azaro who’s on serious goal profligacy this campaign.

Not much of a distraction off the pitch, the story changes on the pitch, owing to his temperament. The alarming rate at which he goes into referees’ booklets is a downside Al Mokawloon Al Arab Sporting Club’s chairman Mohsen Salah wants to see an end to.

In twenty-two games, he’s gotten booked six times with one straight sending off in the defeat to fourth-placed Al Masry in January.

He racked up eleven goals in the previous championship plus the fourteen in this season and this begs the question: how has he been possibly overlooked for national team selections for half a decade? If, however, he goes on to buck the trend of scoring to end of the league, Pharaohs’ head coach, Mexican-born Javier Aguirre, will have no more excuses but to summon him for their “our land, our cup” crusade in the 24-team June Africa Cup of Nations in Cairo.

Ahmed is on fourteen goals, three of them from the penalty spot and nine of those grabbed in the first-half. He faces stiff competitions for the golden boot with Mahmoud Alaa and Khaled Kamar of Zamalek and Ittihad respectively who are both on twelve with Karaba and Hossam Paulo of Daklyeh on ten each.

Kodjo Doh Laba

kodjo-labahA late bloomer, the talent has been there from get-set-go but the Togolese is only beginning to hit the height of his powers at 27. He leads the scoring charts in the Moroccan league, and to imagine his club Berkane, with all his goals, are perched at ninth in the table log tells of a perfect case of travesty. On a positive note, his stock has risen for his good as his market value nears one million pounds, a mark players plying their trade in the continent rarely command regardless of how good they are.

For Kodjo, a career that teed off in the slums in Togo to Angers FC then Gabon’s US Bitam and now Berkane, has finally taken off.

Laba was reported to have inked the dotted lines on a pre-contract with African champions Esperance at the turn of the year – a thing he now repudiates.

With the bombardment of interest swerving his way, the Moroccan outfit have grown resigned to cashing in on him to the highest bidder. Already DR Congo giants AS Vita Club’s Jean-Marc Makusu is being fashioned as a perfect replacement in the event Kodjo exits. The two, partnering next season on the striking front, will be bliss for RS. That, however, looks increasingly unlikely as the Togolese prepares for his departure, with Spain or Portugal reportedly his preferred destination.

Watch him here:

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