Top players on the move

The majority of players’ contracts expire at the end of June, and although some transfer deals have been announced, others were dealt a huge blow by the unexpected change in focus by European clubs.

There was a high expectancy of a huge Euro-African transfer market this off-season but the Italian match fixing scandal impacted the market, as top European clubs turned their focus to Italy where players became readily available following the suspensions and demotions of champions Juventus, Fiorentina, AC Milan and Inter Milan, among others.

However, there has been notable change of base for most African star players who excelled at both the Nations Cup in Egypt and the recent world cup.

England club Tottenham Hotspur signed Cote d’Ivoire midfielder, Didier Zokora who has promised his new paymasters to be the next Patrick Viera of White Hart Lane.

The midfielder was instrumental in seeing his national team to the finals of the 2006 African Nations Cup, where they lost on penalties to hosts Egypt.

Zokora was credited for an all-round splendid performance at the World Cup in what was billed as Group of Death, with Netherlands, Argentina and Serbia Montenegro.

The 25-year-old joined spurs for ‘8.2m from St Etienne last month despite receiving an offer from north London rivals Arsenal. Zokora’s friends, Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Eboue are believed to have urged coach, Arsene Wenger to sign the midfielder last year but Arsenal turned down the player, only rekindling their interest after watching him at the World Cup.

The dreadlocked Elephant is expected to partner Edgar Davids in the TotenHam squad, with Aaron Lennon upfront. A graduate of the Asec Abidjan Academy in Ivory Coast, Zokora was voted one of Africa’s players of the tournament at the World Cup in Germany, last June.

West Brom Albion’s new boss Bryan Robson, has just made a surprise attempt to sign Togo World Cup striker Adekambi Oluufade on a season-long loan from Lille, while Crystal Palace are closing in on a ‘200,000 deal for Ghana star Dan Quaye.

Angola and 2005 Cosafa Player of the year, Yamba Asha has moved to Sweden. The Angolan defender Yamba Asha has joined Swedish premiership club Oster from AS Aviacao after impressing during trials.

The 30-year-old was thrice voted man-of the match in the Nations Cup and World Cup qualifiers, where the Palancras Nagras beat Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Rwanda and Nigeria.

Asha was unfortunately excluded from Angola’s World Cup squad as he was serving a nine-month ban for testing positive for a banned substance in October 2005. He is the second Angolan player to join Oster this season after midfielder Paulo Jose Figueiredo.

From Senegal, Newcastle United has given permission for midfielder Amdy Faye to talk to Premiership rivals Charlton about a possible move to The Valley. The 29-year-old Senegal international was brought from Portsmouth to St James’ Park in 2005 for about ‘2m.

Tunisia’s most illustrious player, Radhi Jaidi seems to have demoted himself after the World Cup as he left high-riding Bolton Wanderers for Birmingham in a ‘2m deal.

The 30-year-old Tunisian centre-back joins the Championship club on a three-year contract. Jaidi, who links up with former Wanderers colleague Bruno N’Gotty, appeared in the World Cup and scored in the 2-2 draw against Saudi Arabia. Jaidi was a regular for Bolton last season after joining the club from Tunisian side Esperance in 2004.

He scored eight goals in his 51 appearances for the Reebok Stadium outfit and has 88 international caps. Another Tunisian world cup player, Hatem Trabelsi is expected to sign at Manchester City from Ajax Amsterdam.

Despite failing to go to the World Cup and a dismal Nations Cup performance, South Africa’s Benni McCarthy joined English premiership side Blackburn Rovers from the Portuguese club FC Porto on a four-year contract for an undisclosed fee.

The South Africa international (28), has had spells with Ajax and Celta Vigo, and was part of the Porto side which won the Champions League in 2004. McCarthy has won 60 caps for South Africa, scoring 26 goals and playing at the 1998 and 2002 World Cups.

He retired from the international game after the 2002 World Cup, but reversed his decision in 2004, after-which his performance at the last two nation’s cups has been criticised.

Another star in the making, Danny Shittu has been signed by Watford from Queens Park Rangers for an initial fee of ‘1.6m. The 25-year-old Nigerian defender had looked to be heading for West Bromwich Albion after Rangers accepted a ‘1.5m offer.

But Watford scuppered West Brom’s plans, signing the Nigerian international on a three-year contract in a deal that could rise to ‘3m. Shittu is well known in Europe rather than in his home country.

He made 162 league appearances for QPR in England’s lower divisions and was a firm favorite among supporters, before the Nigerian Football Association heard about him and called him into camp.

Zimbabwe’s midfielder Esrom Nyandoro has been called up for trials by Sheffield United in the United Kingdom. Nyandoro, scorer of the goal of the 2004 Nations Cup tournament, was a toast again at this year’s nations cup, before seeing off his club to a championship victory.

There is uncertainty over the transferal of Zambian striker Katongo from South African side Jomo Cosmos to Scottish side Aberdeen. Aberdeen were on the verge of signing the Zambian, but have started complaining that Jomo Cosmos manager Jomo Sono is sending the midfielder to other clubs on trial.

Zambia international Katongo, told the Southern Times during the Cosafa Castle Cup in Windhoek that he had impressed during pre-season games for Jomo Cosmos against Aberdeen and Rangers.

Katongo, a veteran of Chipolopolo’s nations cup games, scored against Glasgow Rangers before flying to Windhoek where he captained Zambia to the semi-finals of the Cosafa cup, with two goals.

The Scottish side followed up with talks about bringing the player to Scotland. Cosmos had suggested a formal link-up that would involve other players in addition to Katongo. Aberdeen had stressed that they did not have money for a transfer fee.

However, Katongo could have gone to Pittodrie in the hope that both clubs would benefit should he be sold on to another club should he prove a success.

Another Nations Cup player, Andre Bikey has been included in England’s Barclays (First Division) league side, Reading for trials in their pre-season tour of Sweden.

Bikey (21), has fallen out of favour at current club Lokomotiv Moscow (Russia) and is available on a free transfer. Bikey played for Cameroon as they reached the African Nations Cup quarter-finals at the start of the year.

August 2006
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