Who’s missing? The Premier League players off to Afcon and Asian Cup

<span>Composite: Getty Images</span>
Composite: Getty Images


With the 2027 Asian Cup in Saudi Arabia also expected to take place in January, Takehiro Tomiyasu (Japan) has called for “the Asian Cup to be played in June, the same as the Euros”. The defender has quietly impressed this season and will miss at least five games if the favourites Japan reach the Asian Cup final. Mohamed Elneny (Egypt) is departing for Afcon but the injured Thomas Partey has not been selected by Ghana.

Aston Villa

With Bertrand Traoré (Burkina Faso) last making a league appearance in October, Villa’s sole departee should not be too much of a loss. The club are well covered on the right wing with Leon Bailey and Moussa Diaby impressing this season.


Dango Ouattara (Burkina Faso) limped off in the defeat at Tottenham on Sunday with a swollen ankle but is set to travel to Ivory Coast. London-born Antoine Semenyo (Ghana) made his international debut in Afcon qualifying but has already become hugely influential for his country. Hamed Traorè has been withdrawn from Ivory Coast’s squad after Bournemouth revealed the midfielder was recovering from malaria.


With Ivan Toney and Bryan Mbeumo sidelined, the departure of the forward Yoane Wissa (DR Congo) is a huge blow, while Saman Ghoddos (Iran) has started Brentford’s past seven matches. Frank Onyeka (Nigeria) is another loss in midfield but the teenager Kim Ji-soo (South Korea) is yet to make a first-team appearance since his summer move.


Kaoru Mitoma (Japan), one of three players on this list to feature in the Guardian’s top 100 male footballers in world, will be key for his country at the Asian Cup. Tariq Lamptey’s injury means he has been left out of the Ghana squad and although there were concerns the same fate could befall Simon Adingra (Ivory Coast) after a hamstring strain the winger has said “the rumours that Brighton are keeping me away from the Afcon are completely wrong”.


One of three sides not to lose a player. Lyle Foster was included in South Africa’s preliminary squad but was eventually omitted on mental health grounds, a decision that Burnley’s manager, Vincent Kompany, called sensible, despite starting the striker in Burnley’s past three matches. Anass Zaroury has been left out of the Morocco squad.


Nicolas Jackson (Senegal) is the only departure as he makes his Afcon debut, hoping to help his country defend the title they won in Cameroon. The striker has split opinion since his move from Villarreal and will miss a minimum of four matches.

Crystal Palace

Jordan Ayew (Ghana) has left for his sixth Afcon, joining his brother André at the tournament. The attacker is far from prolific for club and country but highly valued for his intelligence and unselfish running. Cheick Doucouré would have been a certainty in Mali’s squad but for his season-ending achilles injury.


Idrissa Gueye (Senegal) is one of six Premier League players in the favourites’ squad. Abdoulaye Doucouré made his Mali debut in 2022 but turned down his country’s call-up to help Everton’s relegation fight. “I don’t want to go,” he said.


Born in Italy, raised in east London, Calvin Bassey (Nigeria) makes his Afcon debut for the Super Eagles, while his teammate Alex Iwobi (Nigeria) features in his third tournament as he looks to emulate the Afcon triumph of his uncle Jay-Jay Okocha in 1994. Fodé Ballo-Touré (Senegal) is a third player to depart.


The loss of Mohamed Salah (Egypt) is a huge blow, with the forward joint-top of the Premier League scoring charts with 14. Fans of Manchester City, Aston Villa and Arsenal will hope that the 31-year-old will again reach the Afcon final. Wataru Endo (Japan) has emerged as a key cog for Liverpool as he leaves for the Asian Cup.


Issa Kaboré (Burkina Faso) departs having made a real impression on loan from Manchester City. The manager, Rob Edwards, will be heartened there was no place for Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu in the DR Congo squad.

Manchester City

In an ominous sign for City’s title rivals, they have no international absentees.

Manchester United

André Onana (Cameroon) will join his compatriots only 24 hours before their Afcon opener against Guinea after being granted permission to play in United’s league game against Tottenham on 14 January, meaning he will also be available for Monday’s FA Cup tie against Wigan. Sofyan Amrabat (Morocco) has left for Africa but Amad Diallo is not in Ivory Coast’s squad – the 21-year-old made his first appearance of the season in the defeat at Nottingham Forest.


They do not have a player at either tournament but have been linked with a January move for the Salernitana striker Boulaye Dia, who is in Senegal’s squad.

Nottingham Forest

No Premier League team will lose more players with six leaving for Afcon. Serge Aurier (Ivory Coast), Willy Boly (Ivory Coast) and Ibrahim Sangaré (Ivory Coast) represent the tournament hosts, while Cheikhou Kouyaté (Senegal), Moussa Niakhaté (Senegal) and Ola Aina (Nigeria) are big losses for the new manager, Nuno Espírito Santo.

Sheffield United

The Blades get off relatively lightly with Anis Ben Slimane (Tunisia) the only first-team regular to depart. Yasser Larouci (Algeria) was a surprise Afcon inclusion but the former Liverpool academy player has yet to play since joining on loan from Troyes in the summer.


The departure of three essential players leaves Spurs looking very short. The form of Pape Sarr (Senegal) has recently earned the midfielder a new six-and-a-half-year contract, and Yves Bissouma (Mali) has also been excellent this season. How Tottenham replace Son Heung-min (South Korea) will surely dictate their fortunes over this period. The captain could easily be away until mid-February.

West Ham

With Lucas Paquetá injured, the loss of Mohammed Kudus (Ghana) comes at a particularly bad time for David Moyes, whose team struggled for creativity in Tuesday’s lifeless 0-0 draw with Brighton. The absence of Nayef Aguerd (Morocco) is another blow, although the defender has been linked with a January move to Roma, Milan and Saudi Arabia.


Hwang Hee-chan (South Korea) has propelled Wolves to 11th with 10 Premier League goals – more than Ollie Watkins and Alexander Isak. Boubacar Traoré (Mali) has mostly featured off the bench but the departure of Rayan Aït-Nouri (Algeria) is a big blow – the left-back switched allegiance from France last year. The under-21 player Justin Hubner (Indonesia) has been selected.