As another year dawns, Samm Audu takes a look at ten African players who could become a whole lot more famous in 2009.
10 Mustapha Jarju "Toubabo
(RAEC Mons & Gambia)
A versatile player who is comfortable either in midfield or as a striker. He has previously captained his country's Under-17 side and for the last three seasons has been strutting his stuff in Belgium, first with Lierse before he joined up with Mons. He has thus far scored five goals this term after playing mostly as a striker, and was very much part of the Gambian Scorpions side who came within a whisker of advancing to the final round of the 2010 World Cup qualifiers.
9. Faty Papy (Trabsonspor & Burundi)
Turkish club Trabzonspor got themselves a huge bargain when they signed 18-year-old Burundi international midfielder Faty Papy in December. Papy, who has won six caps for his native country since his debut against Seychelles in June, featured for Inter Star of Bujumbura before his move overseas.
8. McDonald Mariga (FC Parma & Kenya)
At 21, this highly rated central midfielder has, within a short time, moved from modest Swedish side Helsingborgs to Italy's top tier (albeit briefly) with FC Parma, who snapped him up for a fee close to ?2 million after he impressed on an intial loan deal. He was capped at full international level in 2006 and has now been linked with a transfer to Serie A giants AC Milan as well as Napoli.
7. Clifford Mulenga (Wits & Zambia)
Arguably the player with the most exciting left foot in the South African Premier Soccer League, he caught the eye of many with some superb displays for his country at the 2007 FIFA World Youth Championship in Canada. It was a performance that fetched him the CAF Young Player Award in 2007. However, he can be something of a volatile character, like when he publicly slammed Zambia coach Herve Renard for leaving him out of a recent World Cup tie. He has since made up with the French coach.
6. Bernard Parker (Thanda Royal Zulu & South Africa)
Such is the huge promise this young Thanda Royal Zulu skipper holds that his South African club have admitted he will be lost to Europe sooner rather than later. Last season he played in all of his club's matches, while this term he has cracked home nine goals in the league. But the highlight of his career are his goals for Bafana - four in nine matches since he was first capped in 2007.
5. Moussa Maazou (Lokeren & Niger)
The year 2008 will certainly pass as a landmark year for this 20-year-old former Sahel SC striker. He was capped at senior level by his country against Uganda in May, and since moving to Belgium he has painted the Jupiler league with goals. He has thus far netted 10 times in 16 appearances for Lokeren.
4. Macauley Chrisantus (Hamburg & Nigeria)
He is your typical centre-forward - strong on the ball, full of running and a player who knows where the goal is. He proved that at both the 2007 African Junior Championship in Togo and months later at the FIFA Under-17 World Cup, where his seven goals helped Nigeria to a third championship win. German Bundesliga outfit Hamburg gave him a professional contract in August when he turned 18, and he has made the bench for several league games this season already.
3. Daniel Opare (Real Madrid & Ghana)
A super talent at right full-back, he could not have dreamt of a bigger platform to showcase his ball skills than Spanish champions Real Madrid. He caught Europe's attention when he emerged as the best defender at the FIFA Under-17 World Cup in Korea in September 2007. Blessed with great pace and precise crosses, the former Ashanti Gold midfielder is on the fringes of the Ghana Black Stars and was only dropped from his country's squad to the 2008 Nations Cup on account of an ankle injury. Injury has again ruled him out of the African Youth Championship this month, but pundits say this player in the mould of Brazilian World Cup star Cafu is on his way to becoming a Galacticos.
2. Rabiu Ibrahim (Sporting Clube & Nigeria)
He has already been compared to the great Austin 'Jay Jay' Okocha because of his ball skills and vision in central midfield. He was the first from an exciting generation of young players to move overseas after helping Nigeria win the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Korea two years ago. Nigeria coach Shuaibu Amodu is known for relying on the old guard, but now he looks set to draft this youngster, 18 only in March, to add some creative juice in the Super Eagles midfield.
1. Yao Kouassi 'Gervinho' (Le Mans & Ivory Coast)
A product of the famed Asec Academy that produced the likes of the Toure brothers - Kolo and Yaya - Didier Zokora and Aruna Didane, Kouassi is an exciting striker who shone like a million stars as he skippered Ivory Coast to the last eight at the Beijing Olympics in the summer. He scores his fair share of goals but, above all, his dribbling runs and ball skills have helped create openings from which his team-mates have profited. Little wonder a man like Arsene Wenger, with his keen eye for young talent, has reportedly been keeping a close watch on a player good enough to carry a Brazilian