FT 2019 Preview: African aces to continue populating the Italian Serie A

The 20-year-old defines the word potential. He has admirable upper body strength, ruthless in front of goal and described as one that almost glides on the turf by those who cannot take their eyes off him.
— Dennis Takaendesa, FirstTouch Africa

Since the days of Cameroonian legend, Samuel Eto’o in the colors of Inter Millan, the Italian Serie A has been shy of major African footballing icons shaking the world. This may not be the case any longer. The year 2018 witnessed a lot of booming and blossoming young footballers that are bound to grow and obviously usher in a fresh area of rapid rise of such players in the league.

Frank Kessie (R) of AC Milan is challenged by Kwadwo Asamoah of FC Internazionale during the Serie A match between FC Internazionale and AC Milan at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on October 21, 2018 in Milan, Italy.  (Oct. 20, 2018 - Source: Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images Europe)

Frank Kessie (R) of AC Milan is challenged by Kwadwo Asamoah of FC Internazionale during the Serie A match between FC Internazionale and AC Milan at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on October 21, 2018 in Milan, Italy.

(Oct. 20, 2018 - Source: Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images Europe)

AC Millan’s Franck Kessie is one such player whom many may classify as a possible re-incarnation of Ghanaian Kwadwo Asamoah when he first appeared in Juventus’ black and white. Just like the younger Kwadwo, 22-year-old Kessie is a solid defensive midfielder who has earned Genaro Gattuso’s trust, starting all of Milan’s 18 matches in the league so far. We are only going to see more of such a promising player gifted with astute leadership qualities evident in things even as small as being handed the penalty taking duties for the team by Gattusso at such a tender age. In that same bracket, is 23-year-old Keita Balde featuring for the other Milan side on loan from Monaco. The Senegalese started the season slowly, sitting out matches but as the year came to close, he started giving a glimpse of what everyone has always seen in him from the get go. Balde has since scored 4 times and assisted 2 others in only 7 starts for Inter Milan. He is one that you can’t help but notice in the unfolding year as he steals the headlines. If you have never heard of the Gambian wonderkid, Musa Barrow who stole the headlines after rivalling age-mate Kylian Mbappe’s scoring record back in September, you shall, soon enough. The 20-year-old defines the word potential. He has admirable upper body strength, ruthless in front of goal and described as one that almost glides on the turf by those who cannot take their eyes off him. He might be going through a major goal drought since netting 4 times and assisting 2 others early in the season, but an individual of his ability cannot be robbed of stardom, this will serve as just an important learning curve. With Kessie having climbed up the ranks through Atalanta, there is no reason to suggest why Barrow will not do the same if not better it. His 14 goals in 19 appearances for Atalanta’s youth is one of the pieces of evidence why he deserves the faith that’s been put in him so far.

The above three and many others will likely continue claiming a stake among the Italian Serie A’s elite just as many other African stars have done in the premier league, celebrating the likes of Kwadwo, Koulibaly and Medhi Benatia who have come, saw and conquered the league.