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The greatest Tunisian players in Premier League history

Tunisia may not be the largest nation in North Africa but they are always a constant source of high-quality football players. Thanks to a mix of French and Arab influences, football has always been a popular sport in the nation seeing many quality players emerge from the country. Many of their top stars have then ventured across the Mediterranean to find success in Europe with some eventually reaching the Premier League. 7 Tunisian players have featured in the English top flight during the Premier league era to mixed fortunes. But how did Tunisian stars’ fare in English football?

 

Radhi Jaidi (Bolton Wanderers, Birmingham City)

Radhi Jaidi was a player who broke new grounds for many Tunisian footballers during his career and his venture into English football was just one of them. He became the first ever Tunisian player to play in the Premier League in 2004 when he joined Bolton from Esperance Tunis. From there, he would become a solid defender for several English club over the next decade. Jaidi’s powerful stature and excellent aerial skills made him a nightmare for strikers to deal with anywhere in the box. He proved this by being a regular for both Bolton and Birmingham for much of the 2000s. His best form came with Birmingham notching up 86 appearances in three seasons and scoring 6 goals. After leaving Birmingham to join Southampton, he played for two more season before retiring in 2012 showcasing yet another new nation to the rewards of English football.

 

Mehdi Nafti (Birmingham City)

Mehdi Nafti was a player that enjoyed a storied career across Europe and that included several seasons in England too. This came during the mid-2000s with Birmingham City after joining from Spanish side Racing Santander. Nafti’s excellent eye for a pass and ability to find space in the middle of the park made him a valuable asset for The Blues as they constantly fought against relegation. Nafti spent three seasons in the Premier League as well as another two in The Championship at St Andrews. After Birmingham were relegated in 2009, Nafti left the club to join Greek side Aris and continue his footballing journey.

 

Hatem Trabelsi (Manchester City)

Hatem Trabelsi’s career was very much a case of what-ifs with many chances of success just falling by the wayside. Having attracted attention from the likes of Arsenal during his time in Ajax, Trabelsi eventually signed for Manchester City in 2006 amid a burgeoning reputation booming from the 2006 World Cup. His pace and skill on the right flank made him a tricky full-back to handle and he even scored one goal in the 2006-07 season. However, Trabelsi broke down with injuries during mid-2007 and struggled to regain any form for fitness. He was released by City at the end of that season and he subsequently retired from the game after the end of that contract.

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Yohan Benalouane (Leicester)

Sometimes, players can have fractious relationships with their club and this was the case with Yohan Benalouane and Leicester. Having joined from Italian side Parma in 2015, the defender struggled with fitness and poor form during his first few games with The Foxes. After a troublesome loan spell with Fiorentina, Benalouane would feature intermittently in the 2016-17 after injuries decimated the Leicester back line. After 11 games in the 2016-17 season, Benalouane would feature just one more time for Leicester before leaving to join Nottingham Forest in 2018 ending a turbulent spell in Leicestershire at the highest level of the game.

 

Yan Valery (Southampton)

French players have long shared ties with Tunisia and Yan Valery is a great example of this. The French-born Tunisian international is a player who comes through English youth academies and earned several starts with Southampton in the 2010s. Valery’s pace and excellent passing saw him maintain a regular run in the 2018-19 Premier League season for The Saints where he scored twice in 23 gamers. Valery’s form dipped from there and it saw him make occasional appearances of the bench in subsequent seasons. His time in English football ended in 2022 when he moved to France and joined Ligue 1 side Angers in a bid to kick-start his career.

 

Wahbi Khazri (Sunderland)

Many Tunisian footballers are known for their technical abilities but few players have shown this as explosively as Wahbi Khazri. Khazri is best known for his devastating left-foot which can deliver devastating set-pieces with amazing power and accuracy. He showcased for three seasons in England with Sunderland. Joining from Bordeaux in 2015, Khazri often proved to be a source of inspiration when The Black Cats were involved in intense relegation battles. This included a stunning volley in a 3-2 win against Chelsea in May 2017 to help Sunderland just survive relegation. After Sunderland were relegated in 2018, Khazri moved back to France with Saint-Etienne where he continued to show his excellent ball-striking abilities.

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