Juventus goes into the Champions League final this weekend with three African footballers looking to be key contributors in the match against Real Madrid: Medhi Benatia, Kwadwo Asamoah and Mario Lemina. This is Juventus’ third Champions League finals appearance in the last three years, so this match is eagerly anticipated nonetheless by Juventus fans. Meanwhile, the Africans have not been as big parts in the run to the finals as some would have hoped.
Ghanaian Kwadwo Asamoah did earn the majority of the starts at left-back during the back half of the Serie A season, but that was only because Juventus head coach Massimiliano Allegri reserved Brazilian Alex Sandro for continental and cup matches, while using Asamoah domestically. One of Asamoah’s highlights was in a victory over Sampdoria in which he provided an excellent cross that set up the game winner by Juan Cuadrado. In that same match, Asamoah made a last-minute defensive play to save the win for his club.
Medhi Benatia, who plays for the Moroccan national team, got his highlight in a 2-1 victory over AC Milan in March, when he scored the opening goal of the match and was one of the top defenders in that game. Benatia otherwise has struggled to get onto the field, only notching 15 domestic appearances and two starts in continental action. Nagging injuries and a stalwart trio of defenders have contributed to Benatia’s struggles to get onto the pitch.
As for the Gabonese Lemina, he has made more Serie A appearances than his African teammates, but he often comes on as a substitute, six of which came in the 75th minute or later. Lemina was considered a dynamic midfielder and attacker during his time with Turin and Marseille in the past, but he only managed one goal and one assist during this Serie A season.