Benjamin Moukandjo insists he feels no pressure taking over the Cameroon captaincy as the forward prepares to lead a diminished squad into the Africa Cup of Nations this weekend.
The 28-year-old striker with French Ligue 1 strugglers Lorient was handed the armband by the Indomitable Lions’ coach Hugo Broos and has since seen established stars such as Liverpool defender Joel Matip and Schalke striker Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting choose to dodge the tournament in Gabon.
Now Moukandjo finds himself as one of only a handful of players based in Europe’s leading leagues to be in the Cameroon squad as they look to improve on a dismal recent record in the tournament.
“I am proud, but it doesn’t really change things,” Moukandjo recently told beIN Sports France of becoming captain.
“There is no extra pressure. Of course it comes with responsibility. There are five or six potential captains in the team and we all try to communicate with one another.”
Moukandjo played a part in Cameroon’s ill-fated adventure at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and scored once as Cameroon made an early exit from the last Cup of Nations in Equatorial Guinea two years ago.
He has since turned into one of the most consistent goal-scorers in France’s top flight, with 20 goals in 36 league appearances for Lorient since the beginning of last season.
A decade has now passed since he arrived in France, having started out at the Kadji Sports Academie in his home city of Douala, where the Cup of Nations’ all-time top scorer Samuel Eto’o began his glittering career.
Moukandjo has played for half a dozen French sides having started at Rennes and been relegated with both Monaco and Nancy.
His current side are scrapping to avoid the drop this season and will greatly miss him during the Cup of Nations, when interest from elsewhere could increase if he does well.
Linked with a big-money move to several English Premier League clubs over the past year, Moukandjo must nevertheless remain fully focused on his country as they go to Gabon as outsiders despite being four-time winners of the trophy.
“We don’t fear anyone but we respect all the teams who have qualified. We are going there to try to win our matches and go as far as possible,” said Moukandjo as Cameroon prepare to face Burkina Faso, minnows Guinea-Bissau and the hosts Gabon in Group A in Libreville.
“It is going to be a great competition. It has been a while now since we made it past the first round. Our main aim this time will be to do that and go further,” added the player whose goal handed Cameroon a precious draw in Algeria in World Cup qualifying in October.
“If we can get out of the group then we will look at our target again and reassess it as we go along. People will look at our group and say we should get out of it but we still need to go and win the matches.”