CAF Player of the year 2018 – Time check, and it’s that time of the year when awards are given out to outstanding footballers in and around Africa, in recognition of the outstanding year they have had, for both club and country. The year 2018, has particularly been a great year for African exports, around the world. Specifically, Liverpool wonder duo, Egyptian Mohamed Salah and Senegalese sensation Sadio Mane have had an outstanding year, under German tactician, Jurgen Klopp’s tutelage. Napoli’s Koulibaly and his counterpart in Turin, Morrocco’s Mehdi Benatia, have increased the stock of African defenders, across Europe. Arsenal’s Pierre Emerick Aubameyang and Wilfried Zaha have complimented the efforts of their defensive colleagues, making themselves the fulcrum of the attack of their respective London based English Premier League teams.
CAF BEST AWARD
CAF has broken tradition by awarding the hosting rites of the African footballer of the year award to Dakar, Senegal. The event which will take place on January 8, 2019, is surely a spectacle to look forward to.
Looking at the past year, we at naijmobile, have drawn up a six-man shortlist for the prestigious award, and make a case for each of them to be the possible winner;
SADIO MANE (Senegal, Liverpool)
The 26-year old’s stock continues to rise after another impressive year with Liverpool. He was instrumental in Liverpool’s unlikely run to the Champions League final, falling short to Zidane’s Real Madrid. He also played at the world cup for Senegal, scoring one goal but narrowly missing out on qualification for the next round to Japan due to yellow cards accumulated. With his direct running and electric pace, the Senegalese remains part of one of Europe’s most feared attacks alongside Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino. He has started the 2018/19 season very well with six goals in eleven league outings so far. Mane will also star at the 2019 AFCON after sealing qualification in Group A alongside Madagascar. He missed out to the amazing Mo’ Salah last time, but this time around, he has a genuine chance to pip his teammate to Africa’s top football individual honor.
PIERRE-EMERICK AUBAMEYANG (Gabon, Arsenal)
One of the most prolific African strikers in Europe right now, Aubameyang has quietly made a mark since joining Arsenal in January. The Gabonese hit the ground running with ten goals in just thirteen league games in the second half of last season. He has also caught the eye so far this season despite playing on the left wing of the Gunners attack and has so far contributed seven goals, forming an impeccable partnership with Alexander Lacazette. On the continent, with one match left, Aubameyang can lead his country to Cameroun 2019, if they win away at Burundi in their last qualification match. Definitely, one of Africa’s best finishers, he has a chance to be crowned winner. And with Arsenal waxing strong in the UEFA Europa league this season, who is to say that the former Dortmund attacker doesn’t have a claim at the title.
MEHDI BENATIA (Morocco, Juventus)
One of the biggest stars from Morocco in recent times, the 31-year old centre back plays in one of Europe’s best defenses at Juventus alongside the likes of Leonardo Bonnuci, Goergio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli. He has won four consecutive Serie A titles with the Italian giants, and with the introduction of Christian Ronaldo to the Juventus squad this season, they might just claim the much elusive Champions League title. Benatia also played at the World cup which ended in an impressive group stage exit that saw strong displays against European power houses, Spain and Portugal.
A technically good and robust defender, he will be at the Nations cup with Morocco after sealing qualification from group B and is worthy of a mention for Africa’s best.
WILFRIED ZAHA (Ivory Coast, Crystal Palace)
The 26-year old Cote d’ivoire international has become one of the best players in the English Premier League outside the top six clubs with lowly Crystal Palace. With his frightening pace, mesmerizing dribbles as well as an eye for goal, Zaha is a thorn in many defences across the league right now, winning fouls and penalties for his side. A move to Tottenham was mooted in the summer, but he signed an improved contract extension at Palace. He continues to walk his way slowly into the physicality of African football since switching his allegiance from England, and he will be a handful at the AFCON with qualification looming for the Ivorians. At his age, he is at the peak of his career and is a worthy contender for the award.
KALIDOU KOULIBALY (Senegal, Napoli)
The towering Senegalese defender is one the most sought after defenders in Europe since establishing himself at Naples, with the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United linked with a move for him. At 6ft, 5 inches tall, he has the physicality to succeed in the English game. He scored five goals in Serie A as Maurizio Sarri’s Napoli narrowly missed out on the Scudetto to Juventus last season, as well as featuring alongside Mane in his country’s heartbreaking elimination at the group stages of the World Cup. With qualification for AFCON in the bag, Koulibaly is one to watch if Senegal are to go all the way. Can he win the CAF award in his country?
MOHAMED SALAH (Egypt, Liverpool)
The winner of the last award, and still this year’s favorite, Mo’ Salah surprised all last season with his 32 league goals, that ultimately gave him the golden boot and PFA players’ player of the year award amongst other recognitions. He was also named among the top three best male footballers in the FIFA best men’s award losing out to Croatia’s Luka Modrić. Although he was compensated with the Puskas award for goal of the year. His Liverpool team narrowly missed out on silverware, after the Egyptian hobbled out of the UEFA Champions League final in tears after a famous tussle with Sergio Ramos which put his world cup participation in doubt. He did however recover in time for Egypt’s world cup campaign, scoring both their goals at the summer games.
In the year in review, the Egyptian has helped the Pharaohs qualify for the 2019 AFCON, scoring the decider in the 3-2 over north African rivals, Tunisia. He currently ranks as one of the highest goal scorers in the AFCON qualification series, with four goals registered to his name.
The Liverpool Fc forward has since become a god in his country with a statue of him being unveiled recently. With Liverpool in the running for the English Premier league title alongside Manchester City, this could be another productive year for Salah and he is once again in the running for the award.
Who do you think deserves this year’s award?
Naijmobile would like to have your take.