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Liverpool duo, Aubameyang are CAF Player of the Year finalists

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Mohamed Salah‘s bid to become the third player to win consecutive African Player of the Year awards faces some stiff competition.

[ MORE: Top PL storylines, Wk 21 ]

Salah (Egypt) is joined by Liverpool teammate Sadio Mane (Senegal) and Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon) as finalists for the confederation’s award, set to be handed out Jan. 8 in Senegal.

The Egyptian won in 2018 — his first year as a finalist — edging second place Mane and third place Aubameyang last year. Aubameyang won the award in 2015, and Leicester City’s Riyad Mahrez claimed the honors in 2016.

Salah will be the heavy favorite despite Aubameyang’s outstanding year, if only because he was the lone member of the three to appear in the 2018 World Cup.

Still injured from a Sergio Ramos challenge in the UEFA Champions League Final, Salah scored both of the Pharoahs goals as Egypt failed to claim a point in a group with Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Uruguay.

Salah already won the BBC’s award. Surprisingly, Aubameyang was left off the BBC’s five-man shortlist, which instead chose Kalidou Koulibaly, Mehdi Benatia, and Thomas Partey. That’s trying a bit too hard, in this man’s view. Alex Iwobi and Wilfred Ndidi were also denied by the CAF.

El Hadji Diouf, Samuel Eto'o, and Yaya Toure were the others to win back-to-back African POTY honors.

Aubameyang says off-field criticism “goes over my head”

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The Daily Mirror posted a profile on Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang late Saturday, speaking with the Gabonese striker as well as a number of people in his life.

[ MORE: PL Saturday roundup ]

Most of the talk dealt with his obsession with soccer, which started as an admirer of his internationally-capped father, but the quotes getting attention come from Aubameyang and deal with his comfort as a flashy personality.

So for those wondering whether the 27-year-old is going to tame his off-field activities now that he’s moved to London, well, it’s unlikely.

Aubameyang has a bit of David Beckham in him, cognizant of his background and relishing his place in life.

“The clothes, the cars and all that are a bonus. I enjoy living this way. I like who I am and it doesn’t matter if other people can’t ­accept that – it goes over my head.

“As they say ‘you only live once’. It’s important to know where you come from and where your roots are – the rest is a big bonus.”

Any number of players, from Andy Carroll to Cristiano Ronaldo, have appreciated the very same things.

It’s not a big deal.

As long as on-field performances accompany them, any criticism is driven by envy or a need to attract a similar form of attention as the player himself.

Mario Lemina joins Southampton for club-record fee

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Southampton have signed midfielder Mario Lemina from Juventus for a club-record fee believed to be in the region of $23.3 million.

[ MORE: Done deal for Coutinho? ]

Lemina, 23, has signed a five year deal at Saints and the Gabonese midfielder could make his debut this Saturday in Southampton’s Premier League opener against Swansea City at St. Mary’s.

The box-to-box midfielder has spent the past two seasons with Juve winning back-to-back Serie A and Coppa Italia titles, while he spent three seasons with Marseille before that.

“I am really happy to have signed for Southampton. I think that it was the project that attracted me the most and the one my family was really behind. I am really happy to be here,” Lemina said.

Southampton’s vice-chairman Les Reed also had the following to say about Lemina’s arrival.

“Mario still has his best years ahead of him, and we believe that he will not only be an excellent acquisition for us in the immediate future, but that he will also be able to realize even more of his potential here in the years to come,” Reed said. “In a volatile market with some extraordinary and inexplicable transfers taking place, we are determined to go about our work in a diligent and correct way. This is a player who has won trophies and played in the Champions League final less than three months ago and he has signed for Saints amid a host of suitors.”

Lamina becomes Mauricio Pellegrino‘s second signing as Saints boss with Polish center back Jan Bednarek, 21, joining earlier this summer for $6.4 million. Saints’ previous record transfer deal was for Sofiane Boufal last summer as he arrived for $20.7 million.

With Virgil Van Dijk‘s future up in the air after he released a statement on Monday stating he has handed in a formal transfer request, Southampton’s fans can at least be excited about Lemina’s arrival.

He is a player who loves to break up the play and start attacks and he should dovetail nicely alongside Oriol Romeu in central midfield for Saints. Following Lamina’s arrival the likes of Steven Davis, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Jordy Clasie may now be scrapping for minutes.

Southampton, Liverpool and West Ham were previously linked with Lamine two years ago, but he instead joined Juve, initially on loan and then permanently, and played 110 times for La Vecchia Signora, scoring five times. Lemina has UEFA Champions League experience (he came on as a sub in Juve’s UCL final defeat to Real Madrid last season) and it was reported that Stoke City were also pushing hard to sign him.

A definite coup for Southampton.

Report: Aubameyang price tag at least $74 million

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What’s the going price for one of the best strikers in the world?

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is set to cost any suitors, including his beloved Real Madrid, at least $74 million on the market. He’s previously admitted he could leave Borussia Dortmund.

[ MORE: Top 5 PL storylines — Wk 25 ]

The Borussia Dortmund and Gabon star, 27, has scored more than 100 goals since arriving at BVB from Saint-Etienne in 2013, including a career-best 39 last season.

That number’s in jeopardy this season even with Aubameyang missing time for the Africa Cup of Nations. He is averaging a goal a game through 17 Bundesliga matches and has four more markers in the UEFA Champions League.

At 27, BVB will be tempted to cash in on the striker given its young attacking depth and Real Madrid likely won’t blink at spending Galactico-style dough for a striker. A part of this feels a fait accompli.

AFCON wrap: Burkina Faso tops Group A, Cameroon also through

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One down, three to go.

Two nations advanced out of Group A on Sunday, and neither of the spots were held by the tournament’s hosts.

[ MORE: All AFCON 2017 coverage ]

Cameroon 0-0 Gabon

Hosts Gabon needed a victory to reach the final eight, however, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and co. struggled mightily to break down the Cameroonian backline.

The Panthers failed to manage a shot on target on Sunday, while Cameroon — who finishes second in Group A — recorded a shot goalward just once.

Cameroon will likely face Senegal in the knockout phase after the Lions of Teranga locked up a spot in the next round.

Guinea-Bissau 0-2 Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso topped the group based on goal differential after an early own goal and Bertrand Traore added a second after halftime.

Rudinilson Silva was caught in an uncomfortable position after 11 minutes when the Guinea-Bissau defender put the ball into his own net. From there, Traore doubled the advantage for Burkina Faso after finishing off a Prejuce Nakoulma pass.

The Stallions will face the runner up of Group B, currently Tunisia, in the quarterfinals.

Group A table (* indicates teams that advanced)

*Burkina Faso (5 points, +2 GD)
*Cameroon (5 pts., +1 GD)
Gabon (3 pts., 0 GD)
Guinea-Bissau (1 pt., -3 GD)

Monday’s AFCON schedule

Senegal vs. Algeria — 11 a.m. ET
Zimbabwe vs. Tunisia — 2 p.m. ET