By Chris Harris

It's not often that the glare of football's spotlight shines on anything but the major European leagues. However for the next few weeks Africa will enjoy its share of the attention.

The Africa Cup of Nations kicked off in Ghana at the weekend and will be compelling viewing for any Premier League manager looking to snap up the next Didier Drogba, Kolo Toure or Samuel Eto'o.

Africa has emerged as a major breeding ground for European clubs with more and more of the continent's players plying their trade away from their homeland. And with Arsène Wenger at the helm, Arsenal have been right at the front of the queue for young African talent.

The Frenchman has brought established internationals to north London like Kanu and Lauren and unearthed rough diamonds such as Toure and Emmanuel Eboue. Then there are the African-born players who become English nationals, like Fabrice Muamba.

So why do African players make the grade in Europe? Wenger puts it down to their sheer power and a special motivation to forge a career in football.

"They have power and therefore in the modern game they are quick and strong," said Wenger. "Most of them are centre backs or centre forwards.

"They are also hungry but I cannot believe we don't have hungry players in Europe. Maybe they just practise more in the streets. Every empty space in London is not for football but an area for building. In Africa it's not the same.

"But I still believe that the top of the game is only for motivated people. If they are only motivated by money it doesn't last. You can't build a career purely on a hunger for money, in the modern game you can earn it at such a young age it's not a sufficient ingredient to build a career. You need that internal burning desire."

As you'd expect, Wenger will be keeping his eye on developments in Ghana. The Frenchman will be assessing new arrivals on the international scene and hoping that Toure, Eboue and Alex Song return with medals rather than injuries.

Arsenal's Ivory Coast duo begin their Nations Cup campaign with a tough group game against Nigeria on Monday afternoon. Wenger thinks Toure and Eboue might have plenty to celebrate when the tournament ends on February 10.

"Ivory Coast has fantastic potential," he said. "Look at the number of their players in Europe. There are two Toures - one plays at Barcelona, the other at Arsenal, and they are regulars.

"England or France or anyone else could be behind these teams. Why should a country like Nigeria with 120 million people playing sport be behind England if they organise properly?"

Copyright 2017 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to as the source
Chris Harris 21 Jan 2008