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Last Updated: Monday, 27 December 2004, 15:47 GMT
Kameni keeps Espanyol clean
By Phil Minshull
BBC Sport, Spain

Espanyol's Cameroonian goalkeeper Carlos Kameni
Kameni's displays have helped his team to fourth in La Liga

If there was an award for the bargain signing of the year, then Espanyol's Cameroon international goalkeeper Carlos Kameni would be in the running.

Still only 20, Kameni cost the Spanish first division side just US$600,000 when he was bought in July from French side Le Havre.

Yet he has been worth every cent as he is currently the safest pair of hands in the top flight of Spanish football.

At the traditional two-week winter break in the Spanish programme, Kameni had conceded just 11 goals in 17 outings.

This makes him the most efficient goalkeeper in the league, and has also led to comparisons with Cameroon goalkeeping legend Jacques Songo'o.

Technically, he's even better than I was
Former Cameroon stopper Thomas N'Kono

In 1997, Songo'o, who remains an icon of Spanish football for his exploits with Deportivo La Coruna, became the only African ever to win the coveted Zamora prize.

That award goes to the best keeper in the Spanish first division, and now Kameni seems well on his way to emulating his compatriot.

"You have to remember that he's still only 20 so you have to look to the future as well," Songo'o said recently.

"Kameni has every chance of being one of the best goalkeepers ever - not just among those that have played in Spain, but in the world," added the man who became the oldest to ever appear in the Spanish first division last year.

Kameni is full of respect and admiration for Songo'o, whose place in the Cameroon team he inherited, but the Espanyol youngster's real hero is Thomas N'Kono, another Indomitable Lions legend.

N'Kono joined Espanyol after impressing at the 1982 World Cup and is now the goalkeeping coach at the Barcelona-based club.

Espanyol's Cameroonian goalkeeper Carlos Kameni
Kameni has impressed neutrals with his fine goalkeeping

"I want to be like N'Kono because he is a reference point in Africa for goalkeepers," Kameni said.

"My father [a former player in the Cameroon second division] and everybody else used to talk about him."

N'Kono won the coveted African Footballer of the Year award in 1979 and then in 1982 as well, by which time he was with Espanyol.

"Technically, he's even better than I was," N'Kono says of his pupil.

"He's almost as good with his feet as he is with his hands.

"Of course, everyone can improve and we are spending a lot time looking at videos of free-kicks in order to get better in this area."

N'Kono helped rescue Kameni after the latter's three years of purgatory at Le Havre, who he joined after helping Cameroon to an Olympic gold medal in 2000 when he was just 16.

"I spent three years at Le Havre without playing and N'Kono gave me back my confidence, and Espanyol gave me a lucky break," reflected Kameni.

He has grabbed his chance at Espanyol - like the balls that fly into his area - with both hands, but his performances have meant that some big clubs want to lure him away when his contract expires in 2007.

English Premiership giants Manchester United sent scouts to sit in the stands at his recent games.

"For the moment, I am only thinking about Espanyol - they have shown their faith in me," added Kameni, knowing that Espanyol's club president recently said he was prepared to break the bank to keep his new star.




SEE ALSO
Espanyol sign Kameni
28 Jul 04 |  African
Songo'o keeps on
24 May 04 |  African


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