From Mahrez to Aubameyang - Premier League stars who have failed to shine at the AFCON

Some big name players have left the AFCON having arrived with huge expectations.

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The AFCON is at the final stages with countries fighting for the slots at the semi-final stage this weekend.

A few of the Premier League stars have already returned to their clubs while arguably two of the biggest names, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane are looking for glory that will cement their legendary status their various countries.

There have been significant disappointments with some players who arrived at the competition with their reputation but left the tournament without anyone noticing their presence.

So with just a week to the final in Yaounde, here are some of the Premier League players who arrived in Cameroon with high expectations but left with their tails between their legs.

Riyad Mahrez

The Manchester City was expected to be challenging for the Player of the tournament having led his team to 33 games unbeaten coming into the competition.

Not many players in the world glide through opponents like the 30-year-old Manchester City magician but instead, he failed to score or assist and missed a crucial penalty that would have given his country a fighting chance against the Ivory Coast in the final Group game.

Now back at Manchester City, Mahrez will look back at what could have been with the Desert Warriors coming into the tournament as overwhelming favourites to defend the title they won in 2019.

Certainly a huge missed opportunity to write his name further in the history of Algerian football having been by far the shining light on route to winning the trophy two years ago in Egypt.

Wilfried Zaha

Zaha’s relationship with the Ivory Coast national team is a strange one, In November he asked to be excused from the team at a time they were fighting for a spot at this year’s world Cup, eventually they failed to qualify to the next round in his absence.

He returned for the AFCON hoping to make up for lost time but he only managed one start and showed glimpses of the enormous talent at his disposal, but that was all it was glimpses.

Inside reports say he is happy and proud to be playing for the Ivory Coast but his body language sometimes suggests a man feeling under-appreciated at the job he does.

For a player of his talent and ability, just an assist to show for in a major tournament will be seen as a major disappointment. Another who will look back at this tournament and feel he missed a huge chance to make some memories at the international level.

Said Benrahma

Another Algerian star who is having a good season at club level but was just not able to get going in Cameroon.

Brought in as a late substitute in the first game Sierra Leone and given a rare start in the disappointing defeat to Equatorial Guinea, Benrahma looked a pale shadow of the player who has scored eight Premier League goals and shown blistering pace and trickery for West Ham.

In the end, it was the accumulation of uninspired performance from Algeria’s star players that led to an early exit, making Algeria only the 12th host nation to crash out of the competition at the first round.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

The Arsenal man hasn’t kicked a ball for either club or country in the last two months and a combination of poor luck, health, and questionable decision making has brought scrutiny to the former Dortmund forward than her would have liked.

Having been stripped of his captaincy and coming into the competition on a mission to prove that he is still as lethal as you can get, Covid struck the 32-year-old before a heart scare ruled him out completely.

He returned to North London without kicking a ball and it remains to be seen if he will ever play for Arsenal again with Mikel Arteta already in the market looking for his replacement.

In his absence the Panthers reached the round of the sixteen stage of the competition but were eventually knocked out by Burkina Faso on penalties.

Alex Iwobi

Alex Iwobi will remember AFCON 2021 as the competition he got sent off seven minutes after coming on against Tunisia.

He will also know that Nigeria could have gone on to had a successful tournament given they were the only side to progress to the round of sixteen having won all their group games.

Struggling for game time and consistency at club level this was supposed to be Iwobi’s tournament of redemption but in the end he defined it for all the wrong reasons.

He has returned to club football and will now have to look to bounce back at Merseyside having only managed three goals in his 68 Premier League appearances since signing for 28 million pounds in 2018.

Thomas Partey

The Arsenal man is Ghana’s assistant captain and was expected to be the engine that drove the Black Stars but he failed to in all aspects of the game.

His passing lacked incisiveness and his shooting looked pale and lacked accuracy. He made a quick return to Arsenal hours after Ghana crashed out of the AFCON only to get sent off minutes after coming on.

Been a tough couple of months for the former Atletico Madrid man and he will look to put behind him a disappointment of Cameroon and help Arsenal to return to Champions League football.

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