During a season in which he was right in the middle of the English Premier League’s Player of the Year debate, Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure sparked another debate when he said in an interview that African soccer stars in Europe don’t get as many accolades from the media as they deserve.
Toure, a Muslim brother from the Ivory Coast, ultimately lost out in the P.O.Y. race to Liverpool striker Luis Suarez (from Uruguay), but Toure did help Man City win a league championship. That was enough to earn him high marks from the soccer blog Kickoff.com, who recently posted a two-part feature grading the performances this season by the Premier League’s African players.
Below are author Ed Dove’s write-ups for some of the African Muslim players in the Premier League:
Marouane Chamakh (B): A goal ratio of roughly one-in-six isn’t much to write home about, but Chamakh performed the ugly work up-front and looked, at least, more motivated than in his Arsenal days.
Ahmed Elmohamady (B): An energetic and consistent presence down the right-flank for Hull, Elmohamady scored twice and contributed two assists.
Kolo Toure (B-): Like Martin Demichelis, a series of high-profile errors have undermined a generally solid campaign. A fading force nonetheless.
Yaya Toure (A+): A dominant campaign by Africa’s finest. 20 goals in 25 matches is a remarkable achievement for a player who was playing in defence for Barcelona only a handful of years ago. He didn’t win the Player of the Season award, but he did take home his second English title.
Cheick Tiote (B-): Tiote has struggled to make the impression he did in his early days at Newcastle, but he remains firmly in the EPL’s top 20 for tackles-per-game.
Oussama Assaidi (B+): Hasn’t quite shone in the Premier League, but four goals in 12 starts is an encouraging return.
West Bromwich Albion
Youssouf Mulumbu (B): The Congolese midfielder was a rare ray of light in a disappointing season for The Albion. Only Mike Jedinak made more interceptions during the course of the campaign. Things could have been a lot worse for WBA had Mulumbu not been holding fort.
Yaya Sanogo (D+): No goals and a muted impact for the young forward in his debut Premier League campaign. This grade may be a little harsh considering he only moved to England in the summer, but the 21-year-old was wholly unable to relieve the pressure from Oliver Giroud, and Arsene Wenger was ridiculed for turning to the forward in the Champions League defeat to Manchester City.
Karim El Ahmadi (C+): A dire season for Villa and an unhappy second season for El Ahmadi. The Moroccan did average 3.4 tackles-per-game, however, putting him in the Premier League’s top six.
Yacouba Sylla (C-): Another anonymous Paul Lambert signing. Sylla played his part in victories over Manchester City and Cardiff, but the manager has largely lost faith in his midfielder and the Malian has been reduced to only four substitute appearances since the New Year. Sky Sports report that he is already seeking a move back to France.
Mohamed Salah (C): Admittedly, he only arrived in January, but Salah has taken longer than expected to adapt to English football. He only scored one goal and has been criticised by Mourinho. Few doubt the forward’s talent, but Egyptians have struggled, notoriously, in the Premier League.
Demba Ba (C+): Ba never had the faith of Jose Mourinho and has appeared to be heading towards the exit door since the summer. His performance against Liverpool was, at times, painfully clumsy, but he did score an important goal against the Reds to go with his winner against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League quarter-final. Everton have recently been linked with a £10million move by the Daily Mail.
Arouna Kone (D-): Injured for almost all of the season, this may seem a cruel grade, but Kone hadn’t impressed in his five Premier League appearances for Everton and, at 30, faces an uncertain future.
Lacina Traore (D): He arrived injured, managed to make a brief cameo against Swansea, scored, and has been out of action ever since. In the end, he was fortunate to even make the Cote d’Ivoire World Cup squad, but I suspect he may get another bite at English football in the future.
Mahamadou Diarra (D+): Given a short-term deal by Felix Magath after having proved his fitness, Diarra is no longer the player who once graced the midfields of Lyon and Real Madrid, and was largely helpless as Fulham floundered.
Abdoulaye Faye (D+): A fading force, now 36, who hasn’t played in the Premier League since October. Should leave this summer.
Papiss Cisse (D-): The year began with a controversy and ended two goals later with people questioning whatever happened to the Senegal striker that burst onto the scene so exceptionally in early 2012. A broken kneecap will leave him on the sidelines for sometime.
Massadio Haidara (D+): Injuries (again) affected the early portion of his season and he was used almost exclusively as a substitute during the second half of the campaign. Not progressing as hoped.
El-Hadji Ba (D-): Another recent Sunderland signing that – to put it politely – hasn’t worked out. Recruited by Paolo di Canio last summer, Ba didn’t play until January, long after his mentor’s departure. After scoring on his debut, against Sunderland in the FA Cup, he managed only 20 minutes of Premier League action.
West Ham United
Mohamed Diame (C+): Diame has struggled to replicate his impressive 2012/13 form and the transfer rumours linking him to Liverpool have gone a little quiet in recent times.