IBTimes UK lists every top-flight player likely to be called up for the Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon.
Qualifying for the latest edition of the Africa Cup of Nations reached its conclusion last weekend, with the 16-team lineup for Gabon officially confirmed after a final round of fixtures. Here, IBTimes UK takes a look at which Premier League clubs are set to be worst hit by a temporary loss of personnel for the tournament, which is scheduled to run for three weeks from 14 January-5 February 2017.
Teams that have qualified for Afcon 2017: Gabon, Tunisia, DR Congo, Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Morocco, Egypt, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Algeria, Senegal, Zimbabwe, Cameroon, Uganda, Togo.
The Gunners will almost certainly lose the services of midfielder Mohamed Elneny, midfield mainstay of an Egypt side that remained unbeaten during qualifying and topped Group G under Argentine manager Hector Cuper.
Arles-born 18-year-old Ismael Bennacer, whose only senior outing in English football to date came during last season’s disastrous 3-0 League Cup fourth-round defeat to Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough, could be called up by Algeria after switching international allegiances and making his senior debut for the Desert Foxes during the recent thrashing of Lesotho in Blida.
However, Alex Iwobi, recently sidelined with a hip injury, will stay put after Nigeria failed to qualify. This is also true for an array of other English-based players including Carl Ikeme (Wolves), John Mikel Obi and Victor Moses (both Chelsea), Ahmed Musa (Leicester), Odion Ighalo (Watford) and Kelechi Iheanacho (Manchester City).
Tottenham Hotspur’s Victor Wanyama and Modou Barrow of Swansea City will also stay put after Kenya and Gambia both finished bottom of their respective qualifying groups.
Eddie Howe will likely have to make do without winger Max Gradel, who helped the Ivory Coast to end their long wait for success in Equatorial Guinea last year and boasts 45 caps in total. Former England U21 striker Benik Afobe was also called up to the Democratic Republic of Congo squad for March qualifiers against Angola, although his debut was delayed while The Leopards awaited the necessary clearance from Fifa. He is yet to be officially capped.
Left-back Papa Souare has previously been considered as a regular for Senegal, while Bakary Sako plays for Mali. Serial loanee Kwesi Appiah played at the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations – where he scored for Ghana during their quarter-final victory over Guinea in Malabo – and picked up an anterior cruciate ligament injury before the qualifier against Mauritius last June.
£25m (€29.7m) summer recruit Yannick Bolasie is a key player for DR Congo and fellow new arrival Idrissa Gueye starts for Senegal. Arouna Kone has not played for the Ivory Coast since 2013, and Oumar Niasse’s hopes of featuring alongside Gana for the Lions of Teranga in Gabon have to be considered remote at this stage given that he has not even been given a squad number by Ronald Koeman at Goodison Park. He is, however, in the Dutchman’s 25-man Premier League squad.
Ahmed Elmohamady will hope to be selected by Egypt after recently returning to the fold and winning his 71st cap as a second-half replacement for Al Ahly’s Ahmed Fathi in a friendly defeat of Guinea. Former Norwich City striker Dieumerci Mbokani, who completed a loan switch from Dynamo Kiev on deadline day, retired from international duty with DR Congo in April citing unfair treatment.
Riyad Mahrez and club-record signing Islam Slimani are both practically guaranteed to travel with Algeria, while Daniel Amartey and Jeff Schlupp will hope to merit selection for Ghana.
Sadio Mane, who became the most expensive African footballer in history with a £34m move from Southampton to Anfield in June, will be a huge loss to Jurgen Klopp, although centre-back Joel Matip may well skip the tournament altogether. The former Schalke stalwart has 27 caps for Cameroon, but, along with older brother Marvin, has been in self-imposed international exile for a while now. Joel has even been accused of ignoring repeated calls and messages from Indomitable Lions boss Hugo Broos, who is evidently keen to have him available again.
Overlooked by Pep Guardiola and left out of City’s squad for the group stages of the Champions League, Yaya Toure is reportedly set to hold talks with Ivory Coast manager Michel Dussuyer to determine his international future. The 33-year-old midfielder won four consecutive African Player of the Year awards between 2011-14, yet has not played for his country since captaining them to a first Afcon triumph for 23 years in that dramatic penalty shootout win over Ghana.
He looked set to make his comeback during back-to-back qualifiers against Sudan in March, only to withdraw from the squad due to a recurring heel injury.
Jose Mourinho’s squad will not be heavily depleted by Afcon, although the absence of defensive rock Eric Bailly, whose place in the Ivory Coast squad already looks assured, will not be well-received given how well he has performed since moving to Old Trafford from Villarreal in June.
Exciting attacking midfielder Sofiane Boufal, who finally completed his club-record £16m transfer from Lille last week, was born in Paris but pledged his international future to Morocco in March and subsequently earned two caps for the Atlas Lions. Herve Renard’s team were the first to qualify for Gabon, sealing their place with a 2-0 win over Cape Verde in March.
On-loan Manchester City striker Wilfried Bony should be a shoo-in for the Ivory Coast, while it would be a big surprise to see Mame Biram Diouf omitted from the Senegal squad. Wunderkind Ramadan Sobhi may also be in contention for Egypt.
David Moyes stands to be hit particularly hard by Afcon call-ups, with Wahbi Khazri expected to play for Tunisia, key centre-back Lamine Kone likely to feature for the Ivory Coast and new £13.6m midfielder Didier Ndong a regular fixture for hosts Gabon. A good run of form for Papy Djilobodji at the Stadium of Light could also see him earn a recall for Senegal.
Dutch-born winger Nordin Amrabat should join Boufal in Morocco’s travelling party, while midfielder Adlene Guedioura has 32 caps for Algeria. Summer signing Brice Dja Djedje, left out of Walter Mazzarri’s final 25-man squad due to an ongoing foot injury, will hope to recover in time to prove his worth for the Ivory Coast.
Full-back Allan Nyom, signed from Watford on deadline day, should make the Cameroon squad. Zimbabwe head coach Kalisto Pasuwa has also maintained this week that the door remains open for Harare-born Everton loanee Brendan Galloway and Burnley’s Tendayi Darikwa.
The Hammers are likely to lose several players to the tournament, including Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate and Algeria’s Sofiane Feghouli. Wantaway striker Diafra Sakho could also go, while Andre Ayew’s position with Ghana will depend on his recovery from a thigh injury suffered on his debut against Chelsea.
Premier League clubs not currently likely to be affected: Burnley, Chelsea, Middlesbrough, Swansea, Tottenham-IBTimes UK