AFCON 2023: Serie A club rues Super Eagles star’s absence

Many European clubs have started to grapple with the reality of losing some of their best legs to the 2023 African Cup of Nations duties which starts next month in Ivory Coast.

European clubs lament loss of African stars to AFCON

Players such as Victor Osimhen, Mohammed Kudus, Mohammed Salah, Thomas Partey, Victor Boniface, and a host of African stars are expected to join their respective countries in the upcoming days to prepare for the continental showpiece.

The tournament commences on January 13 and runs through February 11, meaning clubs will be without players who got called up by their national team during the crucial part of the football season in Europe. 

One player whose departure will no doubt affect his club is Ademola Lookman. The 26-year-old, who plays for Italian side Atalanta, was on Friday named in Jose Peseiro’s 25-man squad

Lookman, since his arrival from RB Leipzig in August 2022, has been an important figure in Gian Piero Gasperini’s setup and continued to prove his importance to the side this season.

Ademola Lookman in action for Atalanta
Foto StefanoNicoli/LaPresse 9 Dicembre 2023 – Bergamo, Italia – sport, calcio – Atalanta vs Milan – Campionato italiano di calcio Serie A TIM 2023/2024 – Stadio Gewiss. Nella foto: Ademola Lookman (Atalanta BC) esulta dopo il gol December 9, 2023 Bergamo, Italy – sport, calcio – Atalanta vs Milan – Italian Serie A Football Championship 2023/2024 – Gewiss Stadium. In the pic: Ademola Lookman (Atalanta BC) celebrates after scoring – Photo by Icon sport

Lookman: Atalanta’s key man

In 22 outings across all competitions this term, Lookman has contributed to nine goals, scoring six and providing three assists. Not only will his output be missed by the Bergamo outfit, but his impact will be felt likewise. Lookman has a breakneck pace, leaving defenders in their wake, thus destabilising defences.

Above all, he offers endless work rate and intelligence both on and off the ball. Hence, according to Gasperini, the departure of a key player is worrying.

It worries me, yes, both for the numbers and for the quality of the matches played. It is clear that we are losing an important element in attack, but we have a certain number of players to be able to make up for it.” Gasperini said ahead of Atalanta’s game with Leece, Lookman’s last game before representing Nigeria at the showpiece.

While away at the tournament, Lookman will miss games against Sassuolo, Roma, Frosinone, and Udinese. Should the Super Eagles advance past the group stage, there is a prospect of him missing fixtures against Lazio on February 4 and Genoa on February 11, the same day as the AFCON final. Atalanta are placed ninth on the Serie A table with 26 points with games played.

Lookman crucial to Super Eagles' AFCON charge 

Ademola Lookman is one of the important players Peseiro will look up to restore the Super Eagles to international glory in Ivory Coast. The Super Eagles last won the competition in 2013 and are looking for the elusive fourth title.

Since making his Super Eagles debut on 25 March 2022, Lookman has made eight appearances and has two goals.

Nigeria are placed in Group A alongside hosts Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, and Guinea Bissau.

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Godfred Budu

Godfred Budu is a purpose-driven Ghanaian sports writer with a sharp eye for excellence. He has had stints with www.kickgh.com inkandkicks.com and ghanafans.com. He loves to talk and write about football on the African continent.