There aren't many players in the world as hot as Demba Ba right now. He is second in the English Premier League in goals and has been linked to several of the top clubs in England, but where he plays his club ball is of little interest to Senegal. They are just interested in his form and with him playing as well as ever, Senegal are all smiles as they look set to reap the benefits of a high-flying Ba in this year's Africa Cup of Nations.
That Ba is playing at such a high level has been a shock for everyone, Newcastle included. The Magpies won't complain though, not about that or his relatively slow start for the club. It took until the end of September for Ba to score his first goal for Newcastle, but it came in a hat trick performance and he hasn't slowed since. The goals kept coming and by the time he left the club to join Senegal he had himself 15 goals and Premier League Player of the Month honors for December.
Ba's success with Newcastle this year isn't the first time he's been in top form. He scored 12 goals in his first season in Germany with Hoffenheim to win them promotion to the Bundesliga, then scored another 14 times in his first year in the top division for a club that shocked everyone by leading the league at Christmas. Seven goals in 12 matches for West Ham proved he can do it in England too, but the market for him was cool after the Hammers were relegated and he was available on a free transfer. That opened the door for Newcastle and the Magpies pounced. Now just about every team in the Premier League is kicking themselves for passing on Ba.
As good as Ba has been at the club level, he has yet to make the impact with Senegal that he's made with Newcastle, or even the impact he made Hoffenheim and West Ham. He scored just once in Cup of Nations qualifying and wasn't even a regular for Senegal in qualifying. Of course, this was before he showed his top form for Newcastle so he wasn't the obvious selection for Senegal that he is now, but it still leaves him unproven at the international level.
Just because Ba is unproven at the international level doesn't mean there is any reason to believe that he won't be fantastic. After all, six-foot-two, strong and with a knack for being able to turn even the most awkward of service into a shot on goal plays anywhere.
Getting to play with Papiss Demba Cisse and Moussa Sow in a front three only makes things easier on Ba. No team in the Cup of Nations will be able to match the trio of forwards that Senegal has and Ba should be able to benefit from the attention paid to the other two to get himself chances, just as the danger that Ba presents will draw attention and create chances for his teammates.
When Ba joined Newcastle, he did so on a free transfer and took the Premier League by storm. He won't be able to surprise anyone at the Cup of Nations because all eyes are on him now, but that doesn't change things. In-form goal scorers score and Ba is in the best form of any striker out there right now.
National Team: Senegal
Club Team: Newcastle United