An influx of African players has poured into England in recent years, and English clubs will face a mass exodus of players headed to the African Nations Cup, beginning Jan. 20 in Ghana.
More than 40 players, many of them key starters on English Premier League clubs, have left or are about to leave for final African Nations Cup preparations.
has for years faced huge defections every other winter, but this winter has seen the largest number of call-ups yet from English clubs.
The success of Africans such as Kolo Toure
(Ivory Coast) at leader Arsenal and Didier Drogba
(Ivory Coast) and Michael
(Ghana) at Chelsea has prompted EPL clubs to send scouts searching across Europe for younger Africans. Among the top scorers in the EPL this year are Arsenal's Emmanuel Adebayor
(Togo), second with 12 goals, and Portsmouth's Benjamin Mwaruwari
(Zimbabwe), tied for third with 10.
Two years ago, Ivory Coast's Elephants only had three EPL players -- Toure, Drogba and Emmanuel Eboue
their roster when they finished second to Egypt at the African Nations Cup. Both Ivory Coast has seven EPL players expected to play at the 2008 African Nations Cup.
Nigeria has the
most with eight EPL players on its 23-player roster. Senegal has six EPL players, while host Ghana should have five English-based players on its squad.
Of the title contenders, Arsenal
and Chelsea will again be hard hit.
Arsenal's Toure and Eboue have already played their final EPL game before joining Ivory Coast. Chelsea will be without Drogba and Ivorian teammate
, Essien and Nigerian midfielder John Obi Mikel
All but for Premier League should have
representatives in Ghana.
The EPL's African contingent also includes players who represent France, notably Congo-born Claude Makelele
Senegalese-born Patrice Evra
(Manchester United) and Ivorian native Olivier Kapo
(Birmingham). Four of the eight
Frenchmen Arsenal has in its first team are the sons of African immigrants: Bakari Sagna
, Vassiriki Abou Diaby
, Lassana Diarra
and Armand Traore
. 2008 AFRICAN NATIONS CUP CALLUPS
Kolo Toure (Ivory Coast), Emmanuel Eboue (Ivory Coast), Alexandre Song (Cameroon). BIRMINGHAM
Richard Kingson (Ghana), Mehdi Nafti (Tunisia), Radhi Jaidi (Tunisia). BLACKBURN
Aaron Mokoena (South
El-Hadji Diouf (Senegal), Abdoulaye Meite (Ivory Coast). CHELSEA
John Obi Mikel (Nigeria), Didier Drogba (Ivory Coast), Saloman Kalou (Ivory Coast), Michael Essien (Ghana). EVERTON
(Nigeria), Ayegbeni Yakubu (Nigeria), Steven Pienaar (South Africa). LIVERPOOL
Muhammed Sissoko (Mali). MANCHESTER UNITED
Manucho (Angola) MIDDLESBROUGH
Mohamed Shawky (Egypt). NEWCASTLE
Obafemi Martins (Nigeria), Geremi (Cameroon), Abdoulaye Faye (Senegal), Habib Beye (Senegal). PORTSMOUTH
Papa Bouba Diop (Senegal), Nwankwo Kanu (Nigeria), John Utaka (Nigeria), Sulley Muntari (Ghana), Lauren (Cameroon). READING
Andre Bikey (Cameroon), Emerse Fae (Ivory Coast), Ibrahima Sonko (Senegal). SUNDERLAND
Hossam Ghaly (Egypt), Didier Zokora (Ivory Coast). WATFORD
Danny Shittu (Nigeria) WEST HAM UNITED
John Pantsil (Ghana), Henri Camara (Senegal). WIGAN
Salomon Olembe (Cameroon), Julius Aghahowa (Nigeria).
==== SOUTHAMPTON (D2)
Youssef Safri (Morocco),
STOKE CITY (D2)
Mamadi Sidibe (Mali) LEEDS UNITED (D3)
Rui Marques (Angola)
NOTTINGHAM FOREST (D3)
Junior Agogo (Ghana) ACCRINGTON STANLEY (D4)
Romauld Boco (Benin)