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Opinion: African stars are leading the charge at Liverpool

raphaeloshoke
CONTRIBUTOR
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785   //    10 Aug 2018, 19:28 IST

Manchester City v Liverpool - UEFA Champions League Quarter Final Second Leg
Liverpool talisman - Mohamed Salah

Liverpool were the dominant team in England during the 70s and 80s, and they boast of a rich trophy cabinet that includes 18 league titles, 7 FA Cups and 5 European cups (Champions League), just to mention a few.

But surprisingly, the last time Liverpool won the league was 28 years ago (1989-90) in the old Division One, this means they have not tasted victory in the league since the advent of the Premier League.

It has been decades of disappointment as every league season Liverpool fans are left to wonder if they will ever get to see their team win the Premier League title.

But there has been some positive developments in the team since the arrival of Jurgen Klopp as manager. The German who won two Bundesliga titles with Borussia Dortmund, has in three years gradually transformed the team into a title challenging team. At the core of this revolution are African players.

First came the Cameroonian, Joel Matip on a free transfer from Schalke in 2015, and was expected to help steady the ship at the back. Although there was some improvement after he came in, the team still had a lot of defensive flaws, eclipsing any impact he may have had.

Liverpool v S.S.C Napoli - Pre Season Friendly
Sadio Mane

If many had misgivings over the signing of Matip as a solution to the team's defensive woes, the next African player Klopp brought to Anfield was spot on.

The signing of Sadio Mane from Southampton in 2016 can be described as a masterstroke by Klopp due to his contribution to the team's success since he arrived.

He was voted Liverpool's player of the season after scoring 13 goals to help the team finish fourth in the Premier League, and got them back in the Champions League. More importantly - he brought fan belief back.

Last season Jurgen Klopp knew he needed to strengthen the squad with someone to compliment Sadio Mane, it was a widely held view that Liverpool's title challenge the previous season fizzled out after the Senegalese got injured in January.

Once again the Liverpool manager brought in an African player - Mohamed Salah, from Roma. Klopp may or may have not expected what he got from the Egyptian who took the Premiership by storm as he broke almost all the available records in the league.

Bury v Liverpool - Pre-Season Friendly
Naby Keita - Klopp's latest African recruit

He was top scorer in the league with 32 league goals, and finished the season with 44 goals in all competitions. He won the PFA Player Of The Year Award, and was named in the PFA team of the season

He also was recently nominated for the best striker in Europe award alongside Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

Salah combined effectively with Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino to form a devastating attacking trio that scored a total of 91 goals last season, and helped Liverpool reach the Champions League final as well as finish fourth in the Premiership.

It guaranteed a back to back appearance in the Champions League, a feat the club had not achieved in the last couple of years.

After two relatively successful seasons, but still with no league title yet, Jurgen Klopp knows he has to mount a serious challenge for the title this season. And once again he has brought in another African player - Naby Keita, to strengthen the team.

Whether Naby Keita is the missing piece in the Jigsaw puzzle of Liverpool's Premier League title challenge remains to be seen, but what is clear is that Liverpool are stronger this season with the Guinean, as well as other newly recruited players like Fabinho, Xherdan Shaqiri and Alisson on the team.

Liverpool v S.S.C Napoli - Pre Season Friendly
Jurgen Klopp - looking to win the Premier League

Jurgen Klopp has assembled a team in which the three African Stars - Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Naby Keita are set to be the standard bearers for the season by providing the goals and the link up play from the midfield, this was a vital ingredient the team lacked after the departure of Philippe Coutinho last Season.

One cannot really tell why he has chosen African players to spearhead his Liverpool project, but Klopp for sure knows how he wants his team to play, and in his African stars he has players who possess the qualities required to execute his plans successfully.

As the Premier league gets underway this weekend, Liverpool's African stars will be rearing to go and prove once more that their performance last season was not a fluke, and that they are ready to take it further this time around and possibly land the much elusive Premier League title.

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raphaeloshoke
CONTRIBUTOR
My name is Donald Agbavobor a 45 years old journalist from Nigeria. Been practicing for 18 years and have covered many international tournaments/championships including the All Africa Games in 2003 in Abuja, the Africa Cup of Nations in 2006 in Egypt, the African Youth Championship in 2007 in Congo Brazzaville and the Paralympic Games in London in 2012. I am married with two children and my wife is also a journalist.
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