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As Africa’s star player return to action across Europe, ESPN reviews some of the biggest talking points of the weekend — with familiar faces maintaining high standards, and a new kid on the block attracting longing glances from Old Trafford.
Brobbey shows Ten Hag what he’s missing
One player who has already secured a transfer this year is Brian Brobbey, who has returned to the Netherlands to reignite his career after losing his way in Germany following a move to RB Leipzig. The 20-year-old arguably moved away from the Eredivisie prematurely when he switched to the Bundesliga last year, and after failing to net in nine top flight games, promptly returned to Ajax in January, initially on loan, before signing permanently for an initial €16.35 million in the summer.
He marked his third debut in style this weekend, coming off the bench at half-time to register an assist and then net the winner as the Amsterdam giants came from behind to defeat Fortuna Sittard 3-2 in a five-goal thriller. The reigning champions were trailing when Brobbey was introduced, but he demonstrated his maturity to drag Ajax to victory.
Brobbey picked up where he left off during his loan spell last season, and at only 20 years and 186 days, the Dutch-Ghanaian starlet becomes the youngest Ajax player since Rafael van der Vaart 20 years ago to score in four consecutive Eredivisie matches.
“Brobbey has become weirdly good,” ex-Ajax and Denmark winder Kenneth Perez said on ESPN Live. “I’m flabbergasted by his development. He’s so composed now, so thoughtful in his actions, and his physique is second to none.”
These are the qualities that surely fuelled ex-Ajax boss Erik ten Hag’s desire to make the starlet one of his statement signings at Manchester United this summer, only to be pipped by his former employers.
According to reports in the Dutch press, Brobbey called his former mentor personally to inform him that he was keen to return to Amsterdam this season, rather than consider a move to Old Trafford.
The contrast between Brobbey’s powerful second-half display and United’s limp showing in their 2-1 home defeat by Brighton & Hove Albion was stark.
Despite losing Sebastien Haller to Borussia Dortmund this window, Ajax find themselves with a surplus of attacking talent, and head coach Alfred Schreuder now has some difficult decisions to make as he attempts to juggle Brobbey, Dusan Tadic, new arrival Steven Bergwijn and Antony.
Mane & Salah among the goals again
Mane’s interplay with Serge Gnabry, who had been linked with a move away during the summer, was a particular delight for the reigning champions, with the ex-Arsenal man setting up the 30-year-old Teranga Lion for his maiden Bundesliga goal.
Like Mane, Salah scored in the season’s traditional curtain-raiser, as Liverpool beat Manchester City 2-1 in the Community Shield, and he also maintained his goal-scoring form in the Premier League, dovetailing superbly with £85m-arrival Darwin Nunez to deny the Cottagers an opening-day victory.
Nunez’s powerful, inventive early showings bode well for the Reds post-Mane. Even if the new boy doesn’t possess his predecessor’s energy or guile, the Colombian demonstrated an encouraging understanding with Salah already.
The Egypt superstar’s positive start to the season has prompted optimism that he can put a tricky start to 2022 — and failure in two major finals — behind him, although strong starts to the season have become par for the course for the 30-year-old.
His goal against Fulham means Salah has now scored in six consecutive opening weekends, and no one has netted more than the North African’s eight goals in gameweek one of a Premier League campaign.
Paintsil strikes gold, Dessers set to depart
One of Ghana‘s better performers during a miserable Africa Cup of Nations campaign, Joseph Paintsil scored his first goals of the season when he netted twice in Genk’s 4-2 thumping of KAS Eupen this weekend.
The wideman scored just twice during the entirety of the regular 2021-22 Pro League season, but equalled that tally within the first eight minutes of Genk’s rousing triumph over Die Pandas.
It’s been a strong start to the campaign for the 24-year-old, who also registered an assist in Genk’s 3-1 victory over Standard Liege on July 31, and he was promptly included in the Belgian Team of the Week after his masterclass against Eupen.
Genk’s hopes of winning their first Belgian title since 2019, however, risk being undermined by the imminent exit of Nigeria striker Cyriel Dessers, who scored twice in the convincing triumph over Standard. The 27-year-old spent last season on loan at Feyenoord and now appears primed for a move away from Genk, with Italians Cremonese appearing his most likely destination.
The transfer would deny Genk fans the prospect of enjoying an all-Nigeria strikeforce of Dessers and Paul Onuachu, although the latter is also the subject of transfer speculation in the final month of the window.
Hakimi sets the tone
New season, new head coach for Paris Saint-Germain, as Christophe Galtier attempts to succeed where Mauricio Pochettino, who nonetheless won Ligue 1 last season, fell short.
Achraf Hakimi, starting in an unfamiliar right wing-back role, with Nuno Mendes operating on the left, was one of PSG’s star performers, constantly bombing forward to join the visitors’ attack to create an overload.
He added a second for Galtier’s side in the 26th minute, following some fine work from an inspired Neymar, and created two goal-scoring opportunities during the course of the contest, with Lionel Messi visibly appreciative of his efforts.
“They are such quality players,” Hakimi said of Neymar and Messi to Canal+ after the match. “They make the difference for us, and from my point of view, I work well with both of them. I hope to continue in this way.”
Hakimi, 23, scored four goals during his maiden Ligue 1 season last term, but on the evidence of Saturday’s showing, is well on course to eclipse that number this year.
Buya Turay’s marriage stand-in
Sierra Leone forward Mohamed Buya Turay split opinion this weekend, after it was reported that he skipped his own marriage — yes, you read that correctly — to sign for Swedish giants Malmo last month, sending his brother to perform the nuptials in his place.
Previously on the books of Chinese side Henan Songshan Longmen, Buya Turay had planned his wedding on July 21, but was ultimately unable to attend the event due to his transfer being completed on July 22, with Malmo expecting him to attend preseason training immediately.
The former Allsvenskan Golden Boot winner took to social media on Saturday to respond to criticism that he had allowed his brother to wed his sweetheart Suad Baydoun, revealing that the actual wedding ceremony had taken place prior.
Buya Turay confirmed that his sibling had attended the Islamic Nikah marriage ceremony, when the legal marriage contract is signed, representing him as a proxy, but that the couple had previously wed in person.
The 27-year-old, who was a member of Sierra Leone’s AFCON squad, made his league debut for Malmo on Sunday as they were defeated 2-1 at Sirius in the Swedish top flight.
He had made his first appearance for the 1979 European Cup finalists as an 82nd-minute substitute in their 3-0 Europa League victory over F91 Dudelange on Thursday.