Moussa "The Beast" Marega, Africa's biggest winner in the UCL so far?
One of the most watched football tournaments in the world, Europe’s UEFA Champions League is currently underway and even yet to reach the climax. Like in times past, where names such as Samuel Eto’o, Didier Drogba and George Weah stole the show, many African footballers continue to headline this tourney. After matchday 4/6 of the 2018/19 group stage, Malian Moussa Marega is arguably the biggest winner as far as impact and continuity is concerned.
The most celebrated Africans participating in Europe’s elite club competition in Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane have started slower than expected and are very much at risk of bowing out early in their Liverpool colors, even though they were finalists in the 2017/18 UCL season. An impressive 3-2 win against PSG at home blindsided everyone to think it was all going to be a walk in the park for Jurgen Klopp and his Redmen. We know how Senegalese international, Kalidou Koulibaly and Napoli stopped them in their tracks in Naples, though eventually responding in the ensuing match by thrashing Red Star Belgrade, 4-0 at Anfield. Now, on Tuesday, the pendulum swung once more and Liverpool’s inconsistency manifested again in a shock 2-0 loss away at Red Star in Serbia. Both Sadio Mane and Mo Salah have been deserving of the praise and stick for the two sides of Liverpool we have seen so far in the Champions League. None of them qualifies to be the main man, they are still yet to hit that 2017/18 record-breaking form.
We have also seen some African talents, relatively new to the UEFA Champions League, showing up big time for their sides. Morocco’s Hakim Ziyech and Cameroonian goalkeeper, Andre Onana who represent the Eredivisie’s Ajax look like they are on a brink to reach the knockout stages after some disciplined performances in the first four games. Ajax is still yet to lose a champions league game this campaign and one more win will most certainly guarantee them a spot in the last 16. The Dutch League’s 2017 Player of The Year has been doing his playmaker job very well for Ajax while 22-year-old Andre Onana has been commanding from between the sticks as they rubbed shoulders with the likes of Bayern Munich and highly rated Portuguese side in Benfica. Koulibaly, arguably the world’s best center back, has been equally instrumental for Napoli who unfashionably top group C, above both Liverpool and PSG. All he is been up to requires a separate piece and even though some we have written on the Senegalese “man mountain” go a long way in describing him and his many talents.
Ultimately, my pick of the African who has had the most going his way is none other than the Malian Beast, Moussa Marega. I had always thought that Adama Traore, the fastest player on FIFA 19, is the only buff and lightning fast Malian, I was actually so wrong. Marega looks like he is the big brother of Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Traore. In the absence of FC Porto’s main striker, Cameroonian Vincent Aboubakar due to injury, Marega has stepped up and done just as good a job. His slick combination up top with Algerian, Yacine Brahimi has seen him bag three Champions League goals and an assist in just four matches. As a result, Porto are unbeaten in group D, occupying first position and needing at most a point to qualify for the knockout stages. After having a slow start to his career that featured several loan spells and short stints at several French and Portuguese lower league and top flight clubs, Marega’s wait is now paying dividends. The ‘’Beast” is shining at the biggest stage of them all. Seeing that a last 16 place is most certain for Porto, it will be interesting to see how far Marega will lead the Portuguese side’s frontline.