Africans Abroad: Fikayo Tomori, Tammy Abraham show EPL talent at Wembley
The EFL Championship playoff final took centre stage this weekend, with Aston Villa defeating Derby County to secure a return to the English Premier League after three seasons away, while there were mixed fortunes for Africa's stars as Serie A and Ligue 1 were concluded.
No Championship side has leaned as heavily on African talent this season as Villa, whose squad of bright young things and experienced heads defeated the Rams 2-1 at Wembley in Monday's final.
There was a 'Made in Chelsea' feel about the showpiece occasion, with Chelsea legends Frank Lampard and John Terry renewing acquaintances on the touchline as Derby manager and Villa assistant head coach respectively.
However, the Stamford Bridge connection extended beyond the touchline and onto the pitch, where three of the club's loanees -- including Anglo-Nigerian starlets Fikayo Tomori and Tammy Abraham -- went toe to toe.
While Abraham has been one of the chief protagonists in the Villans' successful season, he played second fiddle to some of the club's less-heralded stars on Monday, with Netherlands international Anwar El-Ghazi -- who once considered an international future with Morocco -- and midfielder Jack McGinn netting for the Midlanders.
Abraham was, nonetheless, a threat throughout, sending an early effort just wide and winning a series of aerial battles during the course of the contest as Villa kept the pressure on Derby's defence.
He enjoyed the better of his duel with Canada-born Tomori, whose promising season ended with a display in which he again reaffirmed his qualities.
The centre-back, who has represented Canada and England at youth level, demonstrated his poise in possession -- no player on the pitch completed more than his 71 passes -- and delivered one sublime long-range pass late on to instigate Derby's consolation goal.
Both players face an exciting -- if uncertain -- future, but they have demonstrated enough, this season, to suggest they have a lot to offer parent club Chelsea.
London-born Abraham's 26 goals in the second tier surely deserve to earn him consideration with the Blues, who may not be able to sign players this summer due to their transfer ban,
Tomori's quality with the ball at his feet, and his game-reading, may make him exactly the kind of the player that Maurizio Sarri needs in the heart of his defence if the manager remains in West London beyond the end of the campaign.
The duo's performances also offered a tantalising 'what might have been' for Super Eagles fans; Abraham was courted by Nigeria Football Federation President Amaju Pinnick -- a close friend of the player's father -- and he appeared primed to commit to the Super Eagles in 2017 before going onto represent England, while Tomori will be representing the Three Lions at the 2019 UEFA European Under-21 Championship in Italy and San Marino this summer.
Abraham wasn't the only African talent involved in Vila's victory.
Ahmed Elmohamady -- Africa Cup of Nations-bound with Egypt this summer -- contributed the decisive assist for El Ghazi's opener as he secured the third promotion of his career, while Anglo-Congolese defender Axel Tuanzebe played the full 90 minutes, and Jonathan Kodjia of the Ivory Coast was an unused substitute.
Albert Adomah's celebrations at the final whistle were also notable; the Ghana wideman, now 31, has endured a mixed campaign in which he's been in and out of the Villa side and scored four goals, a notable decline from the 14 he scored last term when he took them to the brink of the Premier League.
The Black Stars player has been here before, making 11 decisive contributions in 2015-16 in helping Middlesbrough to reach the top flight, only to be sold to Villa after playing 121 minutes the season after.
Now, having secured promotion for a second time, he'll be hoping to finally get his opportunity to leave an impression at English football's top table.
Across Europe, the league seasons were concluded in Italy and France, with mixed fortunes for Africa's stars in Serie A and Ligue 1.
Kwadwo Asamoah's Internazionale confirmed their return to the UEFA Champions League with a 2-1 victory over Empoli on Sunday, with Senegal forward Keita Balde opening the scoring for the hosts in the 51st minute before seeing red for a second yellow card at the death.
Abidjan-born Hamed Junior Traore equalised for Empoli in the 76th minute -- taking them momentarily above Genoa and out of danger -- before Radja Nainggolan struck an 81st-minute winner for Inter.
The defeat spelled the end to a poor season for another Ghana international, Afriyie Acquah, who has been included in the Black Stars' provisional Afcon squad despite an underwhelming campaign at club level.
Algeria's Ismael Bennacer also drops into the second tier with Empoli.
The French season concluded with a full program of fixtures on Friday evening, when fallen giants AS Monaco beat the drop despite a 2-0 defeat at OGC Nice, with Benoit Badiashile's own goal opening the scoring for the hosts.
Younousse Sankhare scored the only goal of the game as Girondins de Bordeaux condemned Caen to Ligue 2 after the Normandy-based side slipped behind Dijon, who defeated Toulouse 2-1 to set up a two-legged playoff against Lens.
In a good omen for the Ivory Coast, who are expected to name their provisional Afcon squad on Wednesday, Maxwel Cornet scored twice in Lyon's 3-2 come-from-behind victory at Nimes. The wideman ends the season with six goals and three assists in his last five games.