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Top 7 African stars in Europe this season

Sunday 20th May 2018

African stars continue to thrill us with stellar performances. Few have simply outshone their peers this season, though. Those players will strive to repeat the feat next campaign. 

Here are Africa's best seven players across Europe's big five leagues.   

7 - Wilfried Zaha

Three times in a row, Crystal Palace has risked Premier League relegation. On all three occasions, Wilfried Zaha carried the Eagles to safety. 

Since returning to Selhurst Park in 2014, Zaha's reputation has surged each year. This season was his most successful yet. The 25-year-old winger grabbed a personal best nine league goals  - five of those in the last seven matches. Palace now face a fight to keep their talismanic Ivorian. Top teams are circling.

6 - Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Despite leaving Borussia Dortmund for Arsenal in January, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang retained his spot among the top Bundesliga poachers. Only five players racked up more than his 13 strikes.  

Aubameyang has settled seamlessly in North London. He found the target on his debut during a 5-1 victory over Everton. The Gabonese striker struck nine more times, including against Huddersfield Town in Arsene Wenger's send-off, to finish as the Gunners' second top scorer. Such killer instinct will be a huge asset to the next manager.

5 - Naby Keita

Naby Keita has proven more than just a one-season wonder. He delivered another powerful campaign at RB Leipzig. Although the Saxony side ultimately failed to secure Champions League football, the Burkina Faso central midfielder distinguished himself from start to finish.

Keita was his usual bossman, marauding back and forth with aggression, while also contributing his quota further forward. The 23-year-old was top for take-ons (67) as well as second-best for tackles (63) in Germany's first tier. He notched 14 strikes and laced one fewer for his teammates. 

With Keita set to join Liverpool on 1 July, Premier League rivals should be wary of his ability. 

4 - Medhi Benatia

The Juventus faithful feared the worst when Leonardo Bonucci jumped ship to AC Milan last summer. The Old Lady seemed to lack a suitable replacement for the iconic Italian. Mehdi Benatia was saddled with the responsibility. He hasn't faltered.

Not only has Benatia erased Bonucci's ghost, he's become Juve's most important rearguard. He scored twice against his predecessor in the Copa Italia final, too. The Moroccan centre-back will play an even more crucial role next season with Andrea Barzagli and Stephan Lichtsteiner set to depart Turin.

3 - Sadio Mane

Sadio Mane has had an indifferent season due to injury. When fully fit, the Senegalese winger watched from a back seat while teammates Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino took the limelight. Yet, he's always done the required job.

Mane’s resilience, persistence and overall work rate have been pivotal in creating spaces for his cohorts. On his own, he's contributed 19 goals and eight assists. The 26-year-old will be a key figure for Liverpool in the Champions League final, as well as beyond the current campaign. 

2 - Kalidou Koulibaly

An annual feature in the transfer gossip columns, expect Kalidou Koulibaly's name to return again this summer following another commanding year at Napoli. The Senegalese defender was ever-present, featuring 34 times in a promising-turned-heartbreaking season for Partenopei.

Koulibaly's performance ensured Napoli recorded 17 clean sheets, the most in Serie A. Tall, strong, quick across the ground, the 26-year-old also weighed in with crucial goals. Particularly the sole strike away at Juventus.

1 - Mohamed Salah

What a phenomenal year Mo Salah is experiencing. Almost everytime he touches the ball, it amounts to a goal. The Egyptian attacker's record-breaking 44 competitive strikes brought all individual accolades his way.

Salah has entered the early discussions for December's Ballon d'Or. He can improve his chances further by leading Liverpool to Champions League glory against Cristiano Ronaldo's Real Madrid. 

Toby Prince

If the sport has 11-men on each side, a ball and lasts for 90 minutes then I'll write about it. Simply put, I'm an unrepentant soccer freak that other freaks will, however, call a geek. I do find time for music when not watching the beautiful game, though and have been known to produce the odd track. 

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