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Football | Afcon

Youssef Msakni © Backpagepix

Msakni out to impress for Tunisia



Youssef Msakni and all of Tunisia will be praying he can replicate in South Africa the influential contribution he made to last year's Africa Cup of Nations.

The 22-year-old attacking midfielder was on the mark twice in Gabon-Equatorial Guinea, his second Nations Cup appearance.

His late goal enabled former winners Tunisia to win their opening game against Maghreb rivals Morocco, and he set his team on the path to victory over Niger in their second game.

That was enough to ensure Tunisia made it through to the quarterfinals where they fell to an extra-time defeat by Ghana.

Tunisians have been raving about Msakni for several years, and he travels to South Africa intent to impress his new club, Lekhwiya.

He joined the Qatari side from Tunisian champions Esperance on a four-year deal worth up to $15 million (11 225 million euros).

He agreed terms last June, and joined them on January 1.

A number of heavyweight European sides were reportedly interested in securing his services, but he eventually chose the lucrative Lekhwiya deal which represented an Arab record transfer.

"We were very interested in him and we were intent on buying him as we were convinced that he will be a major asset to the team on the pitch," said Lekhwiya sporting director Ahmed Abbassi.

The Qatari side were alerted to Msakni's capabilities by his performances at the 2012 Nations Cup, according to the player's agent, Khalid Kasbi.

"Lekhwiya were following the player since the last Africa Cup of Nations. Youssef imposed himself on the African football scene and his abilities allowed the sums to keep rising," Kasbi told Mosaique FM.

"A lot of parties and a lot of teams wanted him. He had offers from everywhere, many of them well known European clubs."

According to reports, Msakni has a clause built into his contract allowing him to move to a European club if one makes an offer, leading Esperance coach Nabil Maaloul to suggest it's only a matter of time before his recently departed star ends up at Paris Saint-Germain.

The French capital side are owned by the Qatari Investment Authority, which also has a stake in Lekhwiya.

"Youssef was contacted by Paris St Germain through me – I think in six months, one year or more, Msakni should go to Paris," Maaloul told the BBC.

"There are great coaches and great players in Qatar, and the championship there may enable him to improve."

With Tunisia drawn in a tough Group D with competition favourites Ivory Coast, Algeria and Togo, this is the perfect stage for the rising star of African football to enhance his growing stature.

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