Emmanuel Mayuka isn't a star on the level of the biggest names playing for Ghana or Cote D'Ivoire, by any stretch of the imagination. He is, however, a player with a great goal-scoring record and arguably the most talented player on a team that is favored to qualify for the knockout stages. Mayuka is just 21-years-old and extremely versatile. He's playing at a high level, but out of the world spotlight.
These are the players who used to be the story of the Africa Cup of Nations. There are still some up-and-coming players who will make names for themselves in this year's tournament, but they are much more few and far between than they were just four years ago. Not just the stars, but the important role players on most of the big teams have already established themselves. Professional scouts in the big leagues were aware of them before the general public.
Mayuka is certainly one of those players, and with all due respect to Young Boys Bern and their fans, he's likely to move on to a bigger club soon if he plays well in this tournament and in the second half of the Swiss Super League season. He has an excellent scoring record of 33 goals in 85 league games between the Swiss Super League and Israeli Premier League, in his time with Young Boys and Maccabi Tel-Aviv. He's also scored regularly in the Europa League, and has proven adept at playing both as a forward and on the wing.
Based on who he replaced, it seems like Young Boys knows how to spot young strikers with lethal finishing ability who are flying under the radar of Europe's giants. Mayuka was brought in for $1.7 million to replace Seydou Doumbia, who has become one of the best strikers in the Russian Premier League with CSKA Moscow, as well as a regular for the Ivory Coast. While Mayuka isn't quite as lethal as Doumbia at this point in his career, he's probably still in the process of improving as a player. When Young Boys sells him, they'll make a healthy profit.
Mayuka scored three goals in qualifying and his team will need him to score a couple of times in the group stages if they want to advance. Zambia do not have anywhere near the firepower of Group A favorites Senegal, but will be expected to finish above Libya and co-hosts Equatorial Guinea.
National Team: Zambia
Club Team: BSC Young Boys (Switzerland)