Annually, the BBC conducts a poll to decide who is to be crowned African Footballer of the Year.
The shortlist is compiled by a number of prominent African football journalists and also African players.
Previous winners include George Weah, Jay-Jay Okocha and Didier Drogba.
Last year’s winner was Leicester City’s Riyad Mahrez, fresh off the back of his unprecedented title-winning season.
The Confederation of African Football (CAF) also runs its own version of the vote, with a total of 30 shortlisted players, which often mirrors the BBC’s winner—we, however, are going to cast votes in the BBC poll.
This year’s shortlist is as follows: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon and Borussia Dortmund); Naby Keita (Guinea and RB Leipzig); Sadio Mane (Senegal and Liverpool); Victor Moses (Nigeria and Chelsea); Mohamed Salah (Egypt and Liverpool).
Here are our writers’ picks!
The competition is incredibly tough this year—all players have contributed hugely to either their club or national teams and, in one or two cases, both.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s name is a regular occurrence on this list but one that has yet to win it.
Dortmund are currently in third and the Gabonese has so far scored 10 and assisted one, whereas last season they finished third and Aubameyang netted a whopping 31 goals, earning himself the golden boot and just pipping rival Robert Lewandowski.
Also in the Bundesliga, Naby Keïta had a standout season, helping Leipzig finish second and securing a Champions League spot.
Despite cries of ‘buying the league’, Leipzig’s rise and Keïta’s performances earned him a big-money move to Liverpool that will go through at the start of next season, for around £50 million.
As for the two current Liverpool players on the list, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, they have both impressed so far this season.
The former is being hailed as the new Luis Suarez, having scored 12 goals in all competitions so far, and Mane has continued his scintillating form—although he has, and is, dogged by injuries.
Salah had a good season with Roma, having moved there after failing to impress for Chelsea, and also helped the Pharaohs to their first World Cup since 1990, netting twice in the final qualifying game against Congo.
Among all the big names, though, one stands out. Victor Moses.
Last season, the Nigerian reinvented himself, having struggled to nail down solid game time in prior years for the Blues.
He has adapted into a formidable wing-back and, in this guise, helped steer Chelsea to a title win, under the management of master tactician Antonio Conte.
It’s for this resilience and reinvention at a crucial stage in his career, and also the pivotal role he played for his club, that he gets my vote for African Player of the Year.
I look forward to seeing how far he can help the Super Eagles get at the 2018 World Cup!
Looking at the shortlist for African Player of the year and watching them has been a joy, a bounty of talent that can make most lists proud. The issue, however, is this: how the hell do you separate them and choose the cream of the crop?
Naturally two names come to mind, almost screaming at me, as the obvious players to choose. Like James, I totally agree that Victor Moses has had a whirlwind of a year with Chelsea and a successful campaign with the Super Eagles. At the start of the 2016/17 season, he was staring down a backup spot on the bench and the likelihood of maybe another loan—three loans to Liverpool, West Ham and Stoke City had been unfruitful. But he became one of the pivotal players in a resurgent Conte side, making a fairly unfamiliar position at right wing-back his own and helping take Chelsea to a Champions’ berth at the top of the table. He has markedly improved at the club level, and if the award was given based on improvement and having a fantastic year, it should go to him.
But my eventual choice, and perhaps with a tinge of jealousy, is for Mohamed Salah. In a two year spell at Chelsea he came and went anonymously like many other players before him, but now he has truly arrived in the Premier League. His mangled locks have been a blur as he has often outstripped defences for pace, regardless of stature. His knack for popping up in the right place at the right time has become a boon for Roma, then Liverpool and also his country, often shouldering the goal scoring duties over traditional forwards. Once just a pace merchant, after his spell in Italy he has become more than that—he is a pest that stings. For Egypt, he has hauled his country into its first World Cup in 27 years, scoring a brace to qualify; if he is in any Egyptian lineup in Russia, defenders and any poor sod who has to mark him will quake in their boots.
Other players in this list have had tremendous seasons and shouldn’t be ashamed, but I feel Salah has performed where it counts and should be the African Player of the Year.
Aubemeyang: He would easily win my vote, and this award, if it were based solely on personal accomplishment. Personally, I would gratefully watch any match that he plays in, regardless of whichever club he’s playing for or who the opponents might be. He’s worth the price of admission all by himself. But for Aubameyang to go beyond the level he’s at now he needs to lead a team to an important title. That could be leading BVB to the Bundesliga title and defeating Bayern in the process or it could be transferring to Liverpool and helping Klopp (get well soon, Jürgen) to a PL title.
Moses: If this were purely a “comeback” player of the year, then Victor Moses would definitely get my vote. He’s likely not considered old enough for such, but he’s become an important part of Conte’s scheme at Chelsea and very deserving of being mentioned here.
Keïta: He would be unhappy to hear such things, but Naby Keïta remains a “player of the future” in my view. Probably, he is tired of being typed that way, but, thanks to his status vis-à-vis LFC, that is the way that he is perceived for now. If this were the end of the Bundesliga campaign and Leipzig were surprise winners there or finalists in the Champions League, he might have a firmer place in my view. For now…the future continues to beckon…
Mane and Salah: It is hard to select between the remaining pair of Liverpool stars. They both have had parallel years. Mane and Senegal are into the World Cup finals for next summer as are Salah and Egypt. One could say that the latter is a bigger accomplishment given the rarity of it, but weighing that seems unfair in the context of one career. The BBC could do no wrong naming either man player of the year. I would go along with my colleagues here however and say Salah has had the bigger impact for his club especially and improved over the last year as not only an individual player, but as a part of his team.
Drogba: I would also like to give a quick plug to Didier Drogba as being in line for a lifetime achievement award in this same vein. He will be fully retired from playing after next year and though it is only in the USA’s 2nd division, he has made the move to ownership to cap his amazing career.
Jack Henry Norris:
At this point, it would be inexpedient to re-hash the facts and figures that James Vesty and the others have thoroughly summarised, so my addition to this piece will focus solely on my choice, though I’m sure all of the writers could spend hours ruminating on the manifold ability that these players possess.
In a list that epitomises the nexus of superior talent that now resides in African football, the winner should, in my opinion, be chosen not only on his merits as a player both domestically and internationally, but for his service to the continent’s place in the footballing world.
This notion can be boiled down to one simple word—impact. And no one in this list has had more of an impact, for both club and country, than Mohamed Salah.
Signed by Chelsea from Swiss side FC Basel in 2014, he was earmarked as one for the future, but his lacklustre performances for the Blues saw him loaned to Fiorentina, then Roma, in 2015. He eventually made his move to the Stadio Olimpico permanent in the following year, and was undoubtedly in most minds, including admittedly my own, consigned to that ledger of players who just couldn’t hack it in the Premier League.
But his performances for Roma turned heads, and why wouldn’t they—he scored a formidable 15 goals in 31 appearances in the 2016/17 season, a remarkable feat considering he was conventionally used as a winger.
Signed by Klopp for Liverpool this season, he has already bagged seven goals in only eleven games, and, at 25 years of age, he still has a lot to offer English football.
Yet, in my mind, it is his exploits for Egypt that should seal his place as the BBC African Footballer of the Year. As Adam Sturrock has already mentioned, he almost single-handedly achieved World Cup qualification for his country for the first time in 27 years, gifting a place to a side who will not simply be placeholders in Russia 2018, but will challenge and fight every team that they face. In fact, they could even be one of the more convincing dark horses of the competition.
Salah’s remarkable rise should be commended, and his heroics for his nation should certainly be more than sufficient to allow him the recognition that he deserves.
Whatever the outcome of this illustrious prize, Mohamed Salah has assuredly got my vote.
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