African Cup of Nations: Five classic strikers

As we’ve learnt in our African Cup of Nations classic lists, for every Didier Drogba, there is a Titi Camara. In this, the final instalment, we look at the glory boys – the strikers – that may have slipped your mind.

Samassi Abou

Bizarrely described by the French football website, Afterfoot, as “one of the most talented strikers of his generation”, Abou allegedly could have become a great player. Instead, a fruitless six years playing in France, in which he scored just 16 goals in over 100 league appearances, somehow prompted then-West Ham boss Harry Redknapp to shell out £250,000 to bring him to English football in 1997. The highlight of his first season as a Hammer was a brace against Barnsley in 1998, but he went to bag just three more goals in a campaign that mainly saw him come off the bench. His chances in East London became increasingly scarce, and in 1998, he signed on loan for Ipswich, before further loan spells at Walsall, Troyes and Kilmarnock. He left in 2000 for AC Ajaccio, before hanging up his boots in 2003 after a year with FC Lorient. Although born in the Ivory Coast, Abou appeared for France’s under-21 side, but never made a senior appearance for either.

Julius Aghahowa

When Julius Aghahowa signed for Wigan in 2007, Latics fans were drooling at the prospect of seeing their new man’s infamous flip and somersault celebration. In reality, the flamboyant Nigerian’s goalless 23 appearances ensured that Wigan were left reliving his past exploits on YouTube. Rewinding to the early 2000s, and Aghahowa was, at one point, one of the hottest prospects in European football. In seven years playing for Shakhtar Donetsk, he scored 32 times in 89 appearances. Meanwhile, the youngster was also making a name for himself for the national side, too. After making his debut for the Super Eagles in 2000 as an 18-year-old, he scored 14 goals in 32 caps. His international career has been benign since joining Wigan, and after a spell playing in Turkey, he returned to Shakhtar in 2009, though is currently on loan at FC Sevastopol.

Photo: Jake Brown

Joseph-Désiré Job

Job is one of a number of French-born players to have represented an African country in their international career, after accepting a call-up from the Cameroonian national team for his first cap in 1998. Now 34, he has 52 caps to his name, scoring eight goals in the process. English fans will remember him for his exploits in the North East between 2000 and 2005, when he turned out for Middlesbrough. In over 100 appearances for Boro, he scored 22 goals, whilst having to compete with the likes of Hamilton Ricard, Alen Boksic, Massimo Maccarone and Mark Viduka for a place up top. One of his final appearances for the club saw him score this acrobatic effort in the UEFA Cup. Since leaving England in 2006, Job has played in France, Qatar, Turkey and Belgium, and is currently a free agent.

Ibrahima Bakayoko

The second Ivorian in this segment, powerful striker Bakayoko made a name for himself in France, scoring a goal every three games in 76 appearances for Montpellier. This prompted then-Everton boss Walter Smith to pay £4.5 million for his services in 1998, but his time on Merseyside was uninspiring. Scoring just four goals in 23 appearances for the Toffees, he earned the rather unfair nickname ‘Baka-joke-o’. He sheepishly left England for Marseille after just a year, where he achieved a respectable scoring record. In a six-year international career for the Ivory Coast, the big frontman netted 30 times in 45 caps, and after futile spells in Spain, France, Italy and Greece, he seemingly regained his shooting boots in 2009 when he joined PAS Giannina. Despite being 35 now, he’s bagged 29 goals in 71 appearances for the Canteen Men.

Chima Okorie

Not the most famous of the five African frontmen in this list, but by far FAH’s favourite. Our love affair with Okorie began last year, when we interviewed him on his brief spell in England. His two years here – encompassing stints at Torquay, Grimsby and Peterborough – was uninspiring, but it was in India where the powerful Nigerian made his name. Over 14 years playing in the country, he topped the Indian goalscoring charts seven times – to this date, still a record. His prolificness prompted English clubs to enquire about him, and he was on the verge of signing for Notts County when he learned of interest from Premier League club Leeds. The prospect of playing in the world’s best league attracted Okorie, but the move fell through, and he instead signed for Peterborough. Now 43 and ten years retired, he runs a coaching company, Sexy Football.

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