Simple, the Blackburn striker who has had a most satisfying first season scoring 24 all purpose goals for his club leading them to the top ten in the Premiership and the FA Cup 6th round. All this for a paltry £2.5million fee. Naturally, he has attracted the attention of the big name clubs especially Chelsea.
But what really makes McCarthy attractive is that he has traditionally spurned national squad (South Africa) duty for his first priority, his club. This makes him very attractive because the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations takes place square in the second half of the Premiership when clubs are scrambling to cement their position in the league. Chelsea could lose Didier Drogba, Michael Essien, Solomon Kalou, and John Obi Mikel for three weeks. Other clubs like Arsenal will lose key players like Kolo Toure, Emmanuel Eboue, and Adebayor. Whereas, Liverpool except for losing Mohammed Sissoko and Man Utd, whose first squad presently has no African players are going to be untouched. In the scramble for top position, the Africa Cup is a critical factor, and clubs that are going to lose key first squad members will have to prepare for this contingency.
For Arsenal this means signing defenders like Gareth Bale or Micah Richards and strikers like Florent Malouda. For soccer purists, this is another continuing saga in how clubs are more important than representing your country. McCarthy has represented his country and is SA's joint top scorer (with Shaun Bartlett) but he has flitted in and out citing his responsibilities to his club. For SA, a country struggling to climb back to the top in African soccer, McCarthy's participation could make a huge difference.