Tricky forward, 19 y/o star defender; 3 AFCON talents Celtic could scout to bolster squad

By Euan Davidson

January 3, 2022

The African Cup of Nations, or AFCON, begins in earnest on Sunday, and for Celtic there could be some useful scouting trips if anyone at Paradise fancies a trip to Cameroon.

Celtic, of course, have had some impressive African talents come through Parkhead’s gates in the past.

Guinea gave us Bobo Baldé, an uncompromising defender and undoubted fan favourite. Kenya’s Victor Wanyama lit up Celtic Park, while Efe Ambrose won the AFCON with Nigeria in 2013.

Photo by RvS.Media/Monika Majer/Getty Images

So, there’s some history there. And while the folly of basing players’ qualities from one tournament is famous, there are opportunities to get some homework done before the tournament kicks off at the weekend.

What do Celtic need? Well, some prospects for the future are always good. However, it might be important to look at a centre-back or two, given uncertainty over Cameron Carter-Vickers. Meanwhile, another winger to provide some competition up front would go down well.

So, who should Celtic be looking at when it all kicks off on Sunday? Here are a few ideas.

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67 Hail Hail (Youtube)

A potential Young Player of AFCON 2021 in Mohamed El Amine Amoura

Algeria, the AFCON holders going into Sunday, are full of talent. Riyad Mahrez, Saïd Benrahma and Aïssa Mandi will all be familiar to European audiences.

One less familiar name, though, is that of Mohamed El Amine Amoura. At just 21, his international career has got off to an absolute flier. Having joined FC Lugano in Switzerland in the summer just past, he’s perhaps one for the future, but that future looks exciting.

Despite his tender years, Amoura scored a remarkable 15 goals and laid on 9 assists for ES Sétif in Algeria [Transfermarkt], before earning his European move. In the Swiss Super League, he’s scored 2 from 13; not bad for a young player finding his feet in mainland Europe.

His international career is starting promisingly, too. Predominantly a centre-forward, Amoura can play off either wing, a bit like Maeda or Kyogo, and having amassed just 43 minutes of action, manager Djamel Belmadi has deemed him worthy of inclusion on the big stage.

Were Celtic in the market for another forward over the next 6 months, this Algeria starlet could well be one to watch. Certainly, a good showing at the AFCON would mean Lugano will be fielding some calls.

Photo by Guenther Iby/SEPA.Media /Getty Images

Cameroon will be hoping Jérôme Onguéné can fulfil potential at 2022 AFCON

Fans of European football will have had Jérôme Onguéné on their radar for a while.

Part of the never-ending carousel of talent from the RB Salzburg set-up, Onguéné is 24, with 8 caps for Cameroon. That doesn’t seem like a lot, given his qualities.

With 110 appearances for RB Salzburg [Transfermarkt], Onguéné is a technically-minded centre-back who could well step in for Chris Jullien or Cameron Carter-Vickers. You might remember him from fouling Filip Benkovic in the Europa League [Belfast Telegraph], but his game has grown since then.

In the Champions League for RB Salzburg, Onguéné has been solid. He’s made 1.2 tackles and an impressive 2.8 interceptions per 90, while averaging a decent 81% of his passes [WhoScored?]. He’s also chipped in with 2 goals this season, showing some determination to get forward and cause problems [Transfermarkt].

A loan at Genoa didn’t do a great deal for his reputation, with just 4 appearances in Serie A. But a good showing with Cameroon in the AFCON, and the education from playing in the Red Bull set-up mean that if Ange wants another centre-back, Onguéné could be a good shout to slot in immediately.

Photo by Marcio Machado/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images

Saïdou Sow; a centre-back with growing Ligue 1 reputation who’ll be keen to make mark for Guinea

Ligue 1 is full of gems; everyone knows this. Especially Celtic, who have nabbed the likes of Christopher Jullien and Odsonne Edouard from France in recent seasons.

If the Bhoys are quick, they could repeat the trick with another hotly-tipped centre-back. Saïdou Sow is just 19, but is already impressing at Saint-Etienne, having come through the storied French club’s academy set-up.

Already a Guinea international, Sow could put himself in the shop window immediately. The centre-back has earned comparisons to Wesley Fofana and William Sadiba [Ligue 1] – both Premier League signings in recent years. Ligue 1 gave a glowing review of the youngster in August, saying [Ligue 1]: “Like Fofana and Saliba, Sow is the modern-day hybrid centre-back, offering myriad solutions for snuffing out opponents by combining speed, muscle, game sense and skill in a potent mix to frustrate forwards.

“Comfortable with and without the ball, his 1.85m (6’1″) frame means he also has the physique to go toe-to-toe with the most combative of forwards.”

Having signed a new contract in May, Saint-Etienne are aware of interest in the prodigious Guinean talent. Again, Celtic could be looking to reinforce their centre-back options, in the event that Jullien loses a step after a long injury lay-off, or CCV departs in the summer.

It may be ambitious, but intelligent and imposing defender Sow might be a guy to watch closely.

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