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bird TenX: 10 African players who dominated European leagues in the 2023/24 season

FROM England to Germany, Spain to Italy, and France, players of African descent played pivotal roles in securing silverware for various clubs across Europe's top leagues. Even in clubs that fell short of trophies, African players made a significant impact. bird story agency profiles ten top African players in Europe.

THE 2023/2024 Champions League final pitting Spanish giants Real Madrid against German Bundesliga side, Borussia Dortmund, at the Wembley Stadium in London on June 1 marked the end of an eventful 2023/2024 season in major European leagues and tournaments.

From England to Germany; from Spain to Italy to France, players of African descent played huge roles in aiding their clubs to silverware.

The following is a list of ten African players who had a significant impact on clubs across Europe in the 2023/24 season.

1. Amad Diallo – Ivory Coast – The 21-year-old Ivorian winger, was key to Manchester United winning a 13th FA Cup title last month, after stunning favourites Manchester City 2-1 in the final.

On March 17, in a quarter-final match against Liverpool, it was Diallo, coming on as a substitute, who sent Erik Ten Hag’s side to Wembley. He pulled a crucial strike in the 121st minute out of the hat, forcing a 4–3 win.

While Diallo did not score in the finals against Man City, his kick facilitated a semi-finals face-off with Coventry City whom they unconvincingly beat via post-match penalties, before humbling the ‘noisy neighbours’ in the final.

2. Victor Boniface – Nigeria – What a story for Xabi Alonso’s Bayer Leverkusen! Not only did they clinch their first Bundesliga championship, but they did so unbeaten — the first team in history to achieve this feat. The 2023/24 season was also a continental triumph, with Leverkusen setting a European record of 51 consecutive games unbeaten across all competitions.

Leverkusen reached the DFB Pokal and Europa League finals, winning the former but falling to Italy’s Atalanta in the latter.

Nigeria’s Victor Boniface was central to this historic run. He was named Rookie of the Month four times and ultimately took home the overall Rookie of the Year Award, sponsored by Sorare.com. An incredible season for both him and the club.

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3. Nathan Tella -Nigeria – Playing for Leverkusen, the 24-year-old Nigerian scored five goals in the 2023/24 season. He ranks fifth place within his squad and also has three assists to his name.

Leverkusen coach, Xabi Alonso describes Tella as “a player that has the ability to just do the right thing, be in the right place.”

“He (Tella) has the quality to be in the box and makes the right runs,” he is quoted in a Nigerian newspaper, the Punch.

4. Brahim Abdelkader Díaz – Morocco – Spanish giants Real Madrid are fresh from winning La Liga, Champions League and Supercopa de Espana, marking perhaps one of the club’s most successful campaigns in recent years.
The Moroccan attacking midfielder Díaz just managed to do that in a crowded midfield consisting of the ever-green Luka Modric, the outgoing Toni Kroos, Jude Bellingham, Federico Valverde, Eduardo Camavinga and Aurélien Tchouaméni.

The 26-year-old made 46 appearances across the season, including 9 in the Champions League, and with 12 goals and 8 assists, Brahim was one of Real Madrid’s unsung heroes of the 2023/2024 season.

5. Ademola Lookman – Nigeria – The streets of Bergamo in Italy will never forget that in 2024, 26-year-old Nigerian midfielder, Ademola Lookman worked his socks off to deliver the Europa League title to Atalanta in 2024.

Ahead of the final in Dublin on May 22, Bayer Leverkusen were touted to sweep Atalanta aside, and easily win the title. But Lookman had other ideas as his stunning hattrick saw his team cruise to a 3-0 win, delivering the first title for Atalanta in 61 years.

Before landing at Atalanta in 2022, Lookman struggled to establish himself in the English Premier League with Everton, Fulham and Leicester City, and with RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga. He has however gone on to revive his career in Italy under Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini.

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6. Achraf Hakimi – Morocco – Before joining Ligue 1 giants, PSG in 2021, Hakimi had stints with Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and Inter Milan, some of the decent clubs in Europe. Being one of the most sought-after right-backs in the world, he played a major role in PSG’s 2024 Ligue 1 and Coupe de France’s triumphs.

The 25-year-old Moroccan is however more than a full-back. He has not just established his status as an attacking force — he is also now central to PSG’s forward and build-up play.

7. Serhou Guirassy – The Guinea – The Guinea international who plays for the German Bundesliga side, Stuttgart, scored 28 goals last season in 28 game appearances.

Guirassy’s goal-scoring prowess was unmatched, leading the league with an astonishing 14 goals in just seven games. This feat surpassed Lewandowski’s previous record of 11 goals at the same stage. He netted five braces during this period, including two impressive hat-tricks, before being sidelined with an injury that forced him to miss a few matches.

He had one of the most remarkable campaigns in Bundesliga history by an African player, securing second place behind Bayern Munich’s Harry Kane with an impressive tally of 36 goals in 32 appearances, despite Kane playing a couple more games.

8. Mohamed Salah – Egypt – The Egyptian forward continued his scoring ways this season in Liverpool netting 18 goals and offering 10 assists, goals that played a key role in The Reds’ third-place finish. Across all competitions, his goal tally increased to 25 and 13 assists in 44 appearances.

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Despite missing out in the Carabao final against Chelsea, he was a key figure in what stands as Liverpool’s only silverware in the 2023/24 season. Notably, the 2023/24 season is the 7th consecutive season that the Egyptian superstar has reached 20 goals in all competitions since he joined Anfield in 2017. No other player in Liverpool’s history has ever achieved this.

9. Willy Boly – Ivory Coast – Playing for Nottingham Forest, Boly is one of the main reasons for City Ground’s relegation survival. With 20 appearances and two goals, the 33-year-old defender is testament to what a resilient defender looks like.

Forest’s chief football officer, Ross Wilson, describes Boly as “an important player for our group, on and off the pitch.”

“He is a popular figure around the training ground and we are all pleased that his time in Nottingham continues,” he described Boly while commenting on the Ivorian’s recent contract extension at the club.

10. Victor Osimhen – Nigeria – Despite a troubled season with Napoli, who dropped from defending champions to 10th place, the Nigerian forward battled through an injury to score 15 goals and provide three assists in 25 appearances. His efforts earned him the third spot on the Serie A top scorers list for the 2023/24 season, despite his team’s overall average performance.

Special mention: Edmund Tapsoba (Burkina Faso), Odilon Kossounou (Ivory Coast) and Amine Adli (Morocco) also contributed to Bayer Leverkusen’s impressive season.

By OLIVER OCHIENG AND BONFACE ORUCHO, BIRD STORY AGENCY

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