January transfer window: Seri, Idrissi, Haller are Africa's diamonds

The January transfer window was largely low-key, due in no small part to the economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, but African players were still the subject of some fascinating deals in the world's biggest leagues.

The players were the subjects of high-profile deals as title challengers bolstered their sides, as continental hopefuls refined their squads, and as relegation strugglers looked to give themselves an extra boost in their bid to beat the drop.

With the 2021 winter window now in the books, we look back over the past month of transfers and name the African diamonds and duds.

Diamond: Jean Michael Seri to Bordeaux

It wasn't so long ago that Seri was feted as one of the finest deep-lying playmakers of his generation, as the Ivorian established himself in a Nice side that finished in French Ligue 1's top three and qualified for the UEFA Champions League.

Despite being linked with some of the world's biggest clubs -- and being on the brink of a move to Barcelona in 2017 -- he ultimately signed for newly promoted Fulham back in 2018.

It was a remarkable coup, and a major statement of intent by the Londoners.

However, things didn't go to plan; the Cottagers lost their identity after a cavalcade of new arrivals, and plunged back into the second tier, with Seri displayed none of the authority he'd shown in the French Riviera.

A wonderful strike against Burnley early on was as good as it got, and there was little of the passing accuracy, the elegance or the composure that Fulham were expecting.

He spent last season on loan at Galatasaray and has been inactive at Fulham for the past six months, and now gets the chance to make a fresh start back in France with Bordeaux.

Seri scored seven goals and contributed nine assists in the 2016-17 Ligue 1 season for Nice, but can he rediscover the form that once prompted Barca to identify him as the right man for their midfield?

- Transfer window: Grading every big signing for Europe's top clubs

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Dud: Michael Olunga to Al Duhail

The Kenya talisman certainly appears excited about signing for Qatari champions Al Duhail, and already he has talked up his new employers' chances of defeating Al-Ahly and making a splash in the FIFA Club World Cup.

The 26-year-old should be a success in the Gulf, after emerging as the top scorer in Japan with 28 goals in the J1-League last year, but should he not be aiming a little higher at this stage of his career?

Doubtless he will be handsomely rewarded for putting pen to paper in Qatar, but his move means he will not be testing himself against the best teams and the toughest defences in the world game during his peak years.

He's already tried his hand in Europe -- with Djurgardens in Sweden and then Girona in Spain, with whom he became the first African hat-trick scorer in La Liga, but it looks like that will remain the pinnacle of Olunga's club career in Europe's major leagues.

- Tan: How far can Al Duhail go at FIFA Club World Cup?

Diamond: Oussama Idrissi to Ajax Amsterdam

Idrissi may seem like an unlikely inclusion among ESPN's transfer diamonds considering he's stepping back into Dutch football on the back of a disastrous four months with Sevilla FC.

He spent half of his time injured after moving to Spain in October, and after recovering managed just 24 minutes across three substitute appearances in La Liga.

In this context, he may be returning to the Dutch Eredivisie with his tail between his legs, but after a tricky few months a switch to Ajax is exactly what the wideman needs to reinvigorate his career.

He knows the Eredivisie well, and, having scored 13 goals for AZ Alkmaar in an abridged season last term, has the track record in the division to return to his best.

For Ajax, Idrissi's technical quality, flair, and threat in wide areas make him an ideal attacking option domestically and in the UEFA Europa League.

The player certainly seems excited about his unexpected move.

"I hadn't even considered that I would leave Sevilla, but then suddenly Ajax came knocking," he told Ajax's official website. "Nobody had to give me any advice, because you don't turn down such an offer so quickly.

"We are competing on three fronts and are in a good starting position, the spirit and mentality of the football must be sustained."

Dud: Kelechi Nwakali to AD Alcorcon

It's a bitter shame that, five years after his crowning glory, Nwakali has never been further from realising his immense potential.

He captained Nigeria to the title at the Under-17 World Cup in late 2015, winning the Golden Ball in the process as the tournament's outstanding talent.

The world was at his feet, and from 2016 he was on the books of Arsenal as the Gunners looked to hone his qualities in their academy.

He spent time on loan in the Netherlands and with FC Porto in Portugal before a permanent switch to Huesca in 2019 represented the chance of a new beginning.

It simply hasn't worked out; he played a peripheral role in Huesca's promotion to La Liga, and has managed just five outings this term -- winning none -- before being shipped out on loan to Alcorcon.

Failure to make the grade in the Spanish top flight ought to come as a reality check, and Nwakali, 22, appears destined to become another of Africa's wasted talents even if impresses in Spain's Segunda Division.

Diamond: Sebastien Haller to Ajax Amsterdam

It's rare to see a player, still with their best years ahead of them, moving from the Premier League to the Eredivisie in a big-money deal, with the talent and cash tending to flow in the opposite direction.

However, Ajax's £20.25 million signing of Haller from West Ham United was the second-most expensive deal of an admittedly low-key transfer window, as the Ivorian's underwhelming spell in East London finally came to an end.

The logic behind his arrival in the Premier League was clear but Haller took time to settle last term and then appeared to fade this season, scoring just three goals in the top flight before the Irons crystallised a loss and cashed in.

West Ham may risk being short up top for the rest of the season, having failed to sign a replacement, but Ajax are already benefiting from Haller's qualities.

He's contributed four assists and scored twice in his first four Eredivisie outings with the Amsterdam giants, and is clearly benefiting from a reunion with head coach Erik ten Hag.

The two men worked together to great effect at Utrecht, and their renewed collaboration should benefit both.

Dud: Josh Maja to Fulham

Maja is a talented player, no doubt, but is he the right recruit for Fulham?

He appeared to be the Cottagers' third-choice striking target after reported failed pursuits for Joshua King (signed for Everton) and M'Bala Nzola (for whom they failed to meet Italian Serie A club Spezia's asking price).

Those two would have made more sense; King is already tried and tested in the Premier League, while Nzola -- with nine goals in 13 matches for Spezia this term -- is red hot at the moment and has already helped a major league's lesser light outgun their opponents.

Maja has neither experience of the Premier League nor a fantastic goal record, having scored just twice for Bordeaux this season.

Arriving at a relegation-threatened side, chances are likely to be at a premium, and Maja must demonstrate the quality that he has never before shown at this level of the game.

The Nigerian is too good to be known only as the player whose controversial Sunderland exit was immortalised in the Netflix documentary Sunderland 'Till I Die, but it remains to be seen whether Fulham's relegation battle is the right environment for him to impress.

Some encouragement can be found in the way that Fulham manager Scott Parker has begun to get a tune out of the once wayward Ademola Lookman, however; can he replicate the trick with Maja?