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Cup of Nations shows missing African Bundesliga link

The Africa Cup of Nations is often a time for European club coaches to curse and fret, as key players run off to represent their countries mid-season. This year's tournament, however, barely impacts on the Bundesliga.

Manchester City in the English Premiership have had to let Kolo Toure and Yaya Toure head to South Africa for the Africa Cup of Nations, while Tottenham Hotspur will have to cope without star striker Emmanuel Adebayor at a key juncture in the season. That latter absence has even prompted speculation that Spurs will be forced to dip their toes in the transfer market, with comparatively few options on hand to cover the Togolese star.

Togolese's striker Emmanuel Adebayor (R) is congratulated by his teammates after scoring a goal during the African Cup of Nations qualifier football match Togo vs Gabon, on October 14, 2012. (Photo: EMILE KOUTON/AFP/GettyImages)

Adebayor will lead the line for Togo, much to Tottenham's chagrin

As the only major international competition taking place during the European club season, the tournament has courted some criticism in the past – quite understandably considering who pays the players' often exorbitant wages.

France's Ligue 1, as per usual, is positively decimated by this year's competition – though teams can take some consolation in the fact that they're virtually all sharing the same boat.

The Bundesliga, meanwhile, will lose a meager five players to the football festival in South Africa. Only four of them get a sniff at first team football anyway, and one of them has not really performed well enough to deserve it.

Germany has never been the happiest European hunting ground for African footballers, with the language barrier surely playing some role. France's Ligue 1 and the English Premiership tend to boast a stronger contingent of African stars, just as those countries had closer colonial and now cultural ties to the continent.

Stars of old

Anthony Yeboah rushes for the ball in a 1991-92 seaason match for Frankfurt, against Bayern Munich

'Tony' Yeboah scored 96 goals in Germany with Frankfurt, and later Hamburg

But that's not to say Africa hasn't left its mark on German football. Superstars like Anthony Yeboah and Jay-Jay Okocha - perhaps best known for their Premiership exploits - made their names in the Bundesliga, propelling Eintracht Frankfurt to third in the 1992/3 season. Yeboah twice shared the Bundesliga top-scorer award, netting 68 goals during his five years with the club. Okocha was a fan favorite in Frankfurt too, though the club's African connection spectacularly dissolved when Yeboah, Okocha and Maurizio Gaudinho had an irreconcilable falling out with coach Jupp Heynckes.

Still, Okocha remains feted in Frankfurt for this outrageous solo strike against Bayern Munich in August 1993 - even if critics argue he pulled the trigger about 15 seconds too late!

Am vorletzten Spieltag der Bundesliga-Saison 1992/1993 stehen sich in Frankfurt Eintracht Frankfurt und der 1. FC Kaiserslautern gegenüber. Die Eintracht gewann das Spiel mit 3:0. Marcel Witeczek vom 1. FC Kaiserslautern (l) im Zweikampf mit Frankfurts Jay Jay Okocha.

Okocha might be most famed from his days in Paris and Bolton, but don't say that too loudly in Frankfurt!

That goal went past ex-Germany keeper Oliver Kahn, who once received the kiss of life from Ghanaian defender and Bayern Munich stalwart Samuel Kuffour in a 2001 Champions League match against Manchester United.

Yeboah has scored the most goals of any African in Bundesliga history, but not in a single season. Papiss Demba Cisse bagged 37 goals in just 65 games with Freiburg, 22 of them in the 2010/11 Bundesliga season. The Senegalese international is banging them in with just as much regularity in the Premiership and has been linked with big-spenders Chelsea.

Schalke 04's Christoph Moritz challenges Freiburg's Cedrick Makiadi (L) during the German first division Bundesliga soccer match in Gelsenkirchen December 15, 2012. (Photo: REUTERS/Ina Fassbender)

He may not draw the headlines, but Freiburg will miss Makiaidi

Against names like these, this year's notable Africa Cup of Nations absentees leave a little to be desired.

Cedrick Makiadi, Democratic Republic of Congo

Makiadi's no superstar, even within coach Christian Streich's side of low-key overachievers, but he has developed into an integral cog in the Freiburg midfield. A solid central influence both in defense and attack, Makiadi grants players like Daniel Caligiuri and Max Kruse the freedom they need to create. It's an even more crucial service since Freiburg let prolific African marksman Cisse depart for Newcastle a year ago - a player they have not been able to adequately replace up front.

Freiburg's top five scorers, including Makiadi in fifth with a pair of Bundesliga goals, are all midfielders - at least in the first order, though Kruse has played up front for much of this season. The club will also lose Malian striker Garra Dembele during the Africa Cup of Nations, but the 26-year-old is the very definition of a fringe player - with just three substitute appearances to his name this season.

Didier Ya Konan, Ivory Coast

Didier Ya Konan of Hannover is perhaps a more noteworthy name, but by his own high standards he's having a tough time in the north of Germany.

Hanover's Ivorian striker Didier Ya Konan celebrates after scoring during the German first division Bundesliga football match Hanover vs Moenchengladbach in Hanover April 1, 2012. (Photo: JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/GettyImages)

Ya Konan has been relegated to more of a supporting role

Mame Biriam Diouf of Senegal, not represented in South Africa this year, has been such a successful signing that German press reports consistently link former front-runners Ya Konan and Mo Abdellaoue with transfers away from Mirko Slomka's side. Hannover have a wealth of talent up front, and only Ya Konan's ability to readjust to a withdrawn role has salvaged his place in side. With the congested fixture list of an outfit still in the Europa League, Ya Konan usually features either as a starter or an impact substitute.

In his new role, Ya Konan has just a couple of goals and two assists to match at the half-way stage in the Bundesliga; two seasons ago he banged in 14 league goals and set up another seven.

Arthur Boka, Ivory Coast

Stuttgart's left back is just about winning the battle with Italian Christian Molinaro for a first-choice spot in Bruno Labbadia's side. Yet neither of the duo have lit up the league, as their shared minutes in a faltering back line would suggest.

AUGSBURG, GERMANY - JULY 26: Aristide Bance poses during the FC Augsburg team presentation at the SGL Arena on July 26, 2012 in Augsburg, Germany. (Photo by Thomas Langer/Bongarts/Getty Images)

African moguls Frankfurt turned Bance down this summer, he's given them no reason to regret it

What's more, the 29-year-old may head to South Africa with a somewhat heavy heart. His absence provides ex-Juventus player Molinaro, once a clear first choice at Stuttgart, a chance to reassert his position.

Aristide Bance, Burkina Faso

Augsburg's forward Aristide Bance was in fact born in the Ivorian capital Abidjan but plays for neighboring Burkina Faso. He's a regular for relegation-threatened Augsburg, but hasn't scored a single league goal. Football magazine Kicker assigns him a disastrous average rating of 4.5 (that's a D- in some school systems) for the season so far - a far cry from his heady days at Mainz before a big-money move to the Middle East.

He rounds out the quintet of players making their way to South Africa; with only one of them - Makiadi - liable to cause a major selection headache.

That might be good news for the coaches this month, with the Bundesliga's winter break drawing to a close on the same weekend that the South African tournament kicks off. But more long-sighted clubs would surely seek a stronger African presence in the German top flight - not least because of the success it has brought them in the past.

The slender German representation at the Africa Cup of Nations isn't entirely the league's fault, though. Part of the problem lies at the international level. Three Bundesliga stars from Cameroon and Senegal - Schalke's Joel Matip, Diouf at Hannover and Mainz's Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting - never had to decide whether to irk their coaches with a mid-season departure to play for a side that does not pay their wages. Their countries surprisingly failed to make the grade and qualify.