Sakala had a difficult conclusion to his stint at Rangers, ending his contract midway through a four-year deal following the exit of manager Steven Gerrard – who now manages Al-Ettifaq.

Yet the Zambia star feels he has rediscovered his confidence at Al Fatya as he heads to his first Afcon with the Copper Bullets.

“When Steven Gerrard left, my career was going down and I didn’t enjoy it at all because I wasn’t playing,” Sakala explains.

“And then the other coach came, I wasn’t his favourite, but looking at the situation here in the Saudi league, playing every game, I’m trusted that I’ll deliver for the team.

“This is the trust that I was missing in the past few years and it has helped me to keep working extra hard.”

Morocco captain Romain Saiss, now at Al-Shabab, is also on this list of Saudi-based players heading to Ivory Coast.

The former Wolverhampton Wanderers defender argues the Pro League has helped him get better given the influx of big-name players.

“Most of the players in Saudi Arabia come from Europe now, they are more offensive and defensive players,” Saiss told BBC Sport Africa.

“For me, it’s good because it helped me also stay competitive because I can play against the top players like Benzema, like Ronaldo.”

Saiss admits he would have preferred to remain in Europe when departing Turkish club Besiktas, although Saudi Arabia has its own draws.

“I was close to sign for Marseille, but unfortunately it was not the case at the end,” the 33-year-old centre-back explained.

“We had to find another solution and then came the opportunity to come here (Al-Shabab).”

“As a Muslim it is good to live in the country. It is also good for my family of course. The contract is good.”

Additional reporting by Mark Lomas.

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