African players to watch in the Europa League qualifiers

Ademola Lookman of Everton Photo by Andy Astfalck/Getty Images

KweséESPN profile a quintet of African stars who are set to contest Thursday night's Europa League qualifiers.

Ademola Lookman: Coming off the back of an impressive summer in which he was part of the England team that won the U-20 World Cup in South Korea, the Anglo-Nigerian forward will be looking to build the progress he's made over the last 12 months - starting with Everton's qualifier against MFK Ruzomberok at Goodison Park.

The Toffees are in the midst of an ambitious transfer window, and the additions of Wayne Rooney, Davy Klaassen and Sandro Ramirez place some heavyweight competition in Lookman's path.

He'll know that the time to capitalise is now, while the foreign arrivals are still adapting to life in England, and while Yannick Bolasie continues his rehabilitation from a devastating knee injury.

The ongoing uncertainty surrounding Ross Barkley's future would also appear to remove one potential rival for an attacking berth, but can Lookman demonstrate - as he arguably struggled to do after initially moving to Merseyside last term - that he can make the step up from lower leagues?

Richmond Boakye of Ghana has too often looked set to be one of the great 'lost talents' of the African game. As a youngster he appeared destined to become a classic powerhouse of a centre-forward and was snapped up by Juventus in 2012.

He never got his break in Turin, and subsequently turned out for the likes of Atalanta, Roda JC and Latina as he attempted to find an environment where he could flourish.

Finally, he looks to have found it...in the Serbian top flight of all places!

After netting 12 in 16 on loan at Red Star Belgrade, he moved permanently in June and has already scored five goals in the first two rounds of Europa League qualifying.

Sparta Prague's defence are next up to try and cage the in-form Ghana international.

Paul Onuachu: Another African hotshot in the competition so far is Onuachu of Nigeria, who's found the net four times as Midtjylland have ousted Derry City, Jelgava and Ferencvaros to set up a third-round qualifier against Arka Gdynia.

The target man is well remembered for his giant killing display against Manchester United in the round of 16 in the Europa League in 2016, when his winner earned him wider recognition.

In this World Cup year, Onuachu is one of the players who could make a late surge into Gernot Rohr's Super Eagles squad.

Franck Kessie: Thursday night's showdown with CSU Craiova in Romania is the rather unglamorous inaugural competitive fixture of AC Milan's revolution under their new Chinese owners.

The Rossoneri have spent big and have been bold this window with a number of eye-catching additions as they look to restore their lost lustre and break Juventus's hegemony.

The arrival of Leonardo Bonucci - signed from the reigning Italian champions - will steal the headlines, but keep an eye out for Ivorian midfielder Kessie.

The former Atalanta man - another summer recruit - has the potential to be the finest African midfielder of his generation and he's already establishing himself as the Elephants' successor to Yaya Toure.

Clinton N'Jie: Another fallen giant enjoying a revolution of their own are Marseille, who have signed experienced campaigners such as Steve Mandanda, Patrice Evra, Adil Rami, Dimitri Payet and Valere Germain over the last eight months as they look to return to the pinnacle of the French game.

Another recruit - and one with a point to prove - is N'Jie, who's arrived on a permanent deal from Tottenham Hotspur after an unhappy spell in England.

The Cameroon international - a Nations Cup winner earlier this year - didn't do much on loan last term to suggest that he's turned the corner, scoring four goals in 22 outings, but he's still young enough to rediscover his mojo.

Could a long Europa League campaign - beginning at home against Oostende on Thursday - help him return to the form he showed earlier in his career?