Despite problems with infrastructure and corruption, Africa has provided some footballing gems throughout the years, and judging by this year’s African Footballer of the Year nominations that isn’t about to change.
After four consecutive wins, Yaya Touré finally released his hold on the trophy last year like a child having a toy they really like prized from their grip. He was deservedly beaten by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, but caused controversy by calling the decision “pathetic” due to the fact Aubamayeng was not born on the continent, the fact that the Dortmund star represents Gabon seemingly meaning nothing to Yaya. Yeah, Yaya…pathetic.
Anyway, the CAF have acted even more disgracefully than when Manchester City forgot to wish him happy birthday, and Touré has been completely left out of the nominations this time around. We’re sure Dmitry Seluk has some dickhead comment ready for whoever wins that makes us all eagerly anticipate Yaya’s retirement so the loudmouth agent will leave the scene completely. Although that would eliminate the chance of seeing the Ivorian nail a kid’s head with one of his thunderbastards again.
With this in mind, we take a look at Seluk’s potential victims and give our opinion on who deserves the award. The answer to which you’ve probably already narrowed down to two people unless you don’t read article headlines or are really bad at piecing things together, but bear with us.
As in 2015, Aubameyang has been in absolutely immense form this year. The Gabon star – that’s Gabon in Africa, Yaya – is racking up numbers that could confuse Carol Vorderman in the Bundesliga, scoring an incredible 13 so far this season and looking like smashing his record of 25 from the season gone.
Another candidate who has really impressed, although perhaps not to the degree that Aubameyang has, is Roma and Egypt star Mohammed Salah. After being ruthlessly cast aside in strangely uncharacteristic fashion by Jose Mourinho, Salah has being showing his credentials in the Italian capital.
Salah will probably not win the 2016 gong, despite eight goals in 12 appearances, but is only 24 and therefore has plenty of time to become the best African player in football.
In a similar situation is Sadio Mané of Liverpool. The Senegalese forward is also 24 and very much on an upward rather than downward trajectory.
Some questioned Mané’s big money move to Merseyside this summer, but early indications are that it was a typically shrewd move by Jurgen Klopp. The star has not only notched six goals and two assists, but has added an extra dimension to the Reds that has seen the foundations of an unexpected title bid laid. If both player and team continue to grow, it surely won’t be long before Mané is crowned Africa’s greatest.
That leaves, somewhat miraculously in the context of where the club was just a few years ago, two Leicester players. Islam Slimani was brilliant at Sporting Clube and has been impressive so far for Leicester, but it would be a very strange argument to make that he’s more deserving of the award than club and international teammate, Riyad Mahrez.
Alongside N’Golo Kante and Jamie Vardy, Mahrez made up the holy trinity that guided Leicester’s biblical title win. The Algerian consistently produced flicks, passes and goals that made a mockery of his 500 thousand euro transfer fee, and was courted by a host of Europe’s top clubs in summer.
Leicester’s season is not going according to plan so far, but Mahrez will surely receive this individual accolade to sit alongside his Premier League winners’ medal in his trophy cabinet.