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Africans in the Eredivisie: Season Review

Feyenoord Dutch Cup 160424
Feyenoord Dutch Cup 160424

As the Eredivisie draws to a close, KweséESPN review the fortunes of Africa's players competing for the top spots in the division.

The Dutch top flight is typically a verdant breeding ground for talents from the continent, with the likes of Nwankwo Kanu, Finidi George and Kalusha Bwalya just some of the names to have graced the league.

This season, several African players have caught the eye, none more so than Ajax duo Bertrand Traore and Hakim Ziyech, who may yet end the year as champions.

Traore has long been heralded as one of the future faces of African football, but despite impressing when afforded the opportunity at Chelsea by Guus Hiddink last season, he was deemed surplus to requirements and sent out on loan by Antonio Conte this term.

The Burkina Faso international already knows what life in like in the Dutch league after spending time on loan at Vitesse Arnhem, but he's impressed leading the line for the domestic heavyweights this term, netting nine in the Eredivisie, and four en route to the Europa League final.

Traore has excelled on the right side of a front three, and having refined his game in Amsterdam, it will be intriguing to see whether Conte seeks to integrate him into his squad next term.

While the 21-year-old has been impressive, his performances ought not detract from his teammate, Ziyech, who has been the creative inspiration behind Ajax's fine campaign.

The Morocco international may have been omitted from Herve Renard's Nations Cup squad -- a decision that raised a few eyebrows -- but Ajax will never overlook his qualities, with the midfielder stepping up after moving from FC Twente at the beginning of the season.

Heading into the final day, he leads the division on assists -- with 11 -- and has also weighed in with seven goals.

Whether Ajax overhaul league leaders Feyenoord or not, Ziyech certainly has a case for being the division's outstanding player this season.

Unsurprisingly, Moroccan players have proved influential elsewhere in the division this term, and if the Rotterdam giants do beat Heracles at home to clinch the title, then Karim El Ahmadi will lift the first league title of his career.

The 32-year-old has again proved himself to be among the league's most effective defensive midfielders this term -- averaging 3.4 tackles per match -- but he's also chipped in with crucial goals as well, striking a career-high of five so far.

A third Moroccan deserving of some acknowledgement is Yassin Ayoub of FC Utrecht.

Like El Ahmadi, he's a midfield all-rounder, making significant contributions defensively, while also finishing moves and creating for his teammates in the final third.

Indeed, when Feyenoord do begin looking for a replacement for El Ahmadi, they could do a lot worse than consider his compatriot.

Utrecht, in fourth on 59 points, are guaranteed to finish in the Europa League play-off positions.

At 20, one of Utrecht's other Moroccan talents -- Sofyan Amrabat, younger brother of Watford's Nordin -- has emerged as one of the league's most promising talents, even if his all-round midfield play can go unnoticed.

Kamohelo Mokotjo
Kamohelo Mokotjo

Another side set to finish inside the top seven are Vitesse, who can also call upon one of the finest central midfielders in the league.

Marvelous Nakamba didn't perhaps show his best form for Zimbabwe at the Nations Cup, but he continues to demonstrate a magnificent level of consistency in the Eredivisie, where he's one of the league's best tacklers and intelligent in possession.

Twente will secure the final playoff spot if they beat Groningen on Sunday.

South Africa's Kamohelo Mokotjo remains the metronomic presence in the heart of the Tukkers' midfield, averaging over 64 passes per match -- the seventh highest in the league -- and dictating the play from deep with genuine assurance.

He also made his comeback with Bafana Bafana following the departure of Shakes Mashaba, and will be a key figure for the national side under Stuart Baxter.

Ed Dove is the Soccer Editor for KweséESPN. Follow him on Twitter @EddyDove.


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