African star: Salomon Kalou, Ivory Coast

2010-04-15 00:00

WITH just 22 goals in 109 appearances, Chelsea striker Salomon Kalou is clearly still to realise the potential that saw him burst onto the European football scene as a prolific goal scorer for Feyenoord Rotterdam.

Such was the promise shown by the very speedy striker for the Dutch giants that Holland coach Marco van Basten and former great Johan Cruyff were central in an attempt, which was thwarted by that country’s immigration minister, to have Kalou naturalised to play for the Netherlands.

A further indication of Kalou’s undoubted ability is that star-studded Chelsea renewed his contract in October last year to keep him at Stamford Bridge until 2012.

With this sort of faith shown in him, it seems just a matter of time before Kalou begins to realise his potential, and Ivorians will hope this will be when the World Cup kicks off in June.

If ever the Elephants needed a big performance from the 24-year-old, who with his pace and skill is as comfortable at left or right wing as at striker, it is at South Africa 2010.

Ivory Coast, the strongest team on paper in Africa, have been handed a menacing first-round draw that sees them pitted against Brazil and Portugal, with North Korea the obvious whipping boys of Group G.

A product of the famed academy of Abidjan giants Asec Mimosas, Kalou made his European breakthrough with a move to Feyenoord in the Netherlands in 2003, where he made just two appearances before being loaned out to sister club Excelsior Rotterdam. After returning to Feyenoord, Kalou netted 35 times in 60 top-flight starts.

This attracted the attention of many top clubs before Chelsea’s José Mourinho beat the rest to the Ivorian’s signature.

Kalou’s fledgling international career began to take flight at the African Cup of Nations in Ghana in 2008. A superb solo goal in a 1-0 win against Nigeria kicked the tournament off, and he followed that up with two against Guinea in a resounding 5-0 win as Ivory Coast reached the semi-finals, where they lost 4-1 to eventual winners Egypt.

In the 2008/09 season, Kalou’s international call-ups for the Elephants and to the Olympics in Beijing hampered his season at Chelsea under Luis Felipe Scolari, but he still managed 11 goals and nine assists.

The brother of former Paris St Germain and current Heerenveen striker Bonaventure, Kalou will be hoping that South Africa 2010 will mark his breakthrough on the world stage.

 

FACT FILE

Full name: Salomon Kalou

Date of birth : August 5, 1985

Age: 24

Place of birth: Oumé, Côte d’Ivoire

Height 1,86 m

Playing position: Winger, Striker

Current club: Chelsea

Previous clubs: Asec Mimosas, Feyenoord, Excelsior Rotterdam (loan)

National team: 2007–, Côte d’Ivoire, 27 caps, 11 goals

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