As the 2022/23 EPL season starts this weekend, Manchester City are looking to defend the EPL crown they won in May, after pipping great rivals Liverpool to the title by just one point.
Egypt’s Mohamed Salah finished as the joint top scorer with 20 goals, alongside Son Heung-min of Tottenham Hotspur, and is one to watch as ever – as are the handful of new arrivals.
With Senegalese star Sadio Mane having left England for Germany, which Africans are best placed to step into his sizeable shoes?
As the 31st Premier League season starts, all eyes will be on the league’s top African scorer – and biggest star – Salah, who has scored 120 goals and will be looking to extend his impressive record, perhaps to the point of being unpassable.
Only two other Africans have more than a century of Premier League goals, but Mane (111) is now with Bayern Munich while Chelsea legend Didier Drogba (104) retired four years ago.
When Salah nets his first league goal this season, he will surpass Reds great Steven Gerrard and should he score over 30 for the first time since 2018, he could break into the top 10 of Premier League scorers (and go beyond Michael Owen’s 150).
A Premier League, FA Cup, Champions League and Club World Cup winner with Liverpool, the two-time Confederation of African Football and BBC African Footballer of the year is keen to add to club and individual honours after picking three league top scorer awards since 2017.
After claiming his fourth title last season to go level with Drogba, Manchester City’s Algerian star Riyad Mahrez is chasing two personal records.
The second African – after Ivorian Kolo Toure – to win Premier League titles with two different clubs, he now hopes to become the continent’s most successful with a fifth title.
He is also in line to become Africa’s Premier League assists king, boasting 51 assists while Drogba – the only player ahead of him – registered 55.
Chelsea’s Senegalese goalkeeper Edouard Mendy enjoyed another impressive campaign between the posts at club and international level, while also picking the Best Fifa men’s keeper award for 2021.
Now in his third season, the 30-year-old African champion will be looking to add to his 30 clean sheets in the league as the Blues chase domestic and European success.
The new arrivals
Quiet activity in the transfer window has meant the arrival of only a handful of African players from the continent to England.
Six years after an unsuccessful bid to first bring him to England, Senegal captain Kalidou Koulibaly has finally joined compatriot Mendy at six-time champions Chelsea.
Regarded as one of the world’s finest centre-backs, Koulibaly – who has signed a four-year deal after leaving Serie A side Napoli – is the continent’s top arrival.
“I will have to adapt to everything because the speed is faster [in England],” the 31-year-old said on Wednesday.
“I will need time for sure because I can’t be the player everyone wants from the first game. I will take my time and in two or three months, I will be the one everyone is waiting for.”
Elsewhere, Mali midfielder Yves Bissouma joined Tottenham Hotspur on a four-year deal worth £25m (plus add-ons) after impressing at Brighton with his goals, passing and all-round game.
Compatriot Cheick Doucoure joined Crystal Palace from Ligue 1 side Lens on a five-year deal, while Morocco’s Nayed Aguerd left Rennes for West Ham United but the 26-year-old will miss the start of the season after suffering an ankle injury in a friendly against Rangers.
Ones to watch
Nigeria’s Taiwo Awoniyi believes his arrival at newly-promoted Nottingham Forest will attract fans from Africa’s most populous nation to the club.
The 24-year-old striker, who scored 20 goals in 43 games across all competitions last season, joined Forest from German club Union Berlin for a club-record fee in June.
“This is a big chance for my career,” he told BBC Sport Africa. “The hard work starts now and I can’t wait to get started.”
Southampton signed compatriot Joe Aribo on a four-year contract from Scotland’s Rangers and a player who contested last season’s Europa League final has already shown glimpses of what he can produce.
“The goal in pre-season was good but it’s only pre-season, I just want to keep my head focus on what lies ahead,” he told BBC Sport Africa.
The 25-year-old Super Eagle joined for a fee reported to be about £6m, rising to £10m with add-ons.
Time is running out for Nigeria international Alex Iwobi at Everton, who joined the Toffees from boyhood club Arsenal in 2019 but who has failed to truly cement himself in the club’s starting XI under four managers.
“Last season was a difficult one, but I am positive about that things will be better this season,” Iwobi, 26, told BBC Sport Africa.
Tunisia teenager Hannibal Mejbri, meanwhile, says he is ‘ready to risk everything to succeed at Manchester United’.
After arriving from French club Monaco in 2019, the 19-year-old has only made three league appearances for United but with 16 caps for the Carthage Eagles, he is keen to break into the first-team plans of new manager Erik ten Hag.
“I need to work hard,” he recently told Pro-Direct Soccer France.
“I didn’t come here for nothing, not to have on my CV: ‘I played for United’, I came to prove to the world that a young person from Paris, from the neighbourhood, can come and impose himself.”
A surprise winner of Caf’s Young Player of the Year award, Pape Matar Sarr has finally linked up with Tottenham Hotspur.
The 19-year-old defensive midfielder joined Spurs last year but spent the season on loan at French side Metz to continue his development.
Despite playing in some pre-season games, Sarr has been linked with another loan move away from North London.
He has eight caps, including one in January’s Africa Cup of Nations, which Senegal won for the first time in their history.
Out of sight
Veteran Ivory Coast defender Eric Bailly is expected to put his injury-hit time at Manchester United behind him by leaving the club before the end of the current transfer window.
He has been linked with a move to another Premier League side, but is also reportedly fancied by clubs in Italy, Spain and France.
Elsewhere, Ivory Coast winger Simon Adingra joined Brighton from Danish side Nordsjælland, but the Seagulls have sent him out to Belgian club Union SG on a season-long loan.
By: Kwaku Oduro