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Predicting Africa's next Champions League winner

Three African players are in contention to feature in Saturday's Champions League final in Cardiff, with Kwadwo Asamoah, Medhi Benatia, and Mario Lemina all having played their part in Juventus' run in the competition.

However, while this trio may yet get their hands on Europe's top prize should the reigning Italian champions thwart Real Madrid's designs on retaining their title, it hasn't been a vintage year for the continent's players in the European Cup.

Indeed, should Real see off the Old Lady at the National Stadium of Wales, then the wait for another African winner will extend to at least six years, with Chelsea's quartet of Didier Drogba, Michael Essien, Salomon Kalou, and John Obi Mikel all winning the title in 2012.

However, despite another season where Africa's relative lack of participation at the business end of the competition has again been exposed, is there any reason for optimism? Could the continent's wait for another winner end next year?

Returning to the top table next term will be Chelsea, who will be firmly considered among the hot contenders for the UCL after their fine Premier League-winning campaign this term.

Antonio Conte doesn't have an excellent record in cup competitions, but Premier League sides found it particularly difficult to get past his 3-4-3 formation this season, and European opposition may find it similarly tricky next year.

Many of this squad have experience in the competition, and if he retains his spot in Conte's starting XI, makeshift right wing-back Victor Moses might be the continent's best bet to end the wait for a European Cup.

Bertrand Traore could also feature for the English champions if Conte opts to reincorporate the Burkinabe frontman into his squad following a fine campaign on loan at Ajax.

England will have four other representatives in the competition next term, and while they remain at an early stage of their development, who could bet against Manchester United going deep into the tournament?

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Jose Mourinho is a two-time winner -- with FC Porto and Inter Milan -- and the Red Devils have become particularly difficult to beat under the Portuguese coach, even if goals remain a problem.

United's Ivorian Eric Bailly has enjoyed an excellent maiden season in the Premier League, and should go from strength to strength next term.

Manchester City should also improve, while they also have a coach -- Pep Guardiola -- who has experience of winning the big one. However, it remains to be seen whether either of City's African stars -- Yaya Toure and Kelechi Iheanacho -- will be at the club next season.

Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool can't be written off -- particularly if Sadio Mane and Joel Matip stay fit -- although Victor Wanyama and Tottenham Hotspur would need to improve significantly from their miserable UCL performance this season if the midfield powerhouse is to become the second Kenyan to lift the crown.

Ghanaian duo Thomas Partey of Atletico Madrid and Juventus' Asamoah will both also expect to be challenging in the latter stages of the competition, assuming neither moves clubs during the offseason.

Benatia has also made his loan move to Turin permanent, and will be looking to feature more in Europe's top table next term.

There could also be a renewed French challenge from AS Monaco -- whose success was built upon African talent this season -- or from Paris Saint-Germain, where Serge Aurier is another high-profile African talent whose future remains uncertain.

Aurier's chances of becoming the fourth Ivorian talent to win Europe's grandest prize would surely be boosted if he completed a long mooted move to Barcelona, who still haven't truly solved their right-back situation following the departure of Dani Alves.

Another African player who has the potential to dominate the transfer headlines this summer is Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, with the Gabon hitman linked to Real Madrid for several transfer windows, and having made no bones about his desire to become a Galactico.

The Central African won the Bundesliga Golden Boot this season after netting an eye-catching 31 goals in 32 outings in the German top flight, and there's no doubt that he belongs at one of the few clubs in the world bigger than his current employers.

Now 27, the time is right for Auba to make the move to the Bernabeu, where he'd be a mesmerising addition to an attacking roster including Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, James Rodriguez, and Isco.

Indeed, should Aubameyang seal a move away from Dortmund this European summer, he'd surely be the overwhelming favourite to end Africa's wait for a European champion.

If Paris Saint-Germain secure his signature, could he be the catalyst for the Ligue 1 giants to finally clinch their first continental silverware?

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

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