It’s that time of year again – voting has officially opened for people to decide who the best African footballer has been over the past year.
The shortlist has been whittled down, and fans can vote for one of either Mohamed Salah, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Naby Keita, Sadio Mane or Victor Moses to take this year’s crown.
As always with such lists, cases can be made for other players that didn’t quite make the grade… so who was unlucky this time around?
- Wilfried Zaha – Crystal Palace & Ivory Coast
Crystal Palace’s best player Wilfried Zaha can perhaps count himself unlucky not to have been recognised amongst the best African players of the past year.
He was a huge reason why the Eagles, under the management of Sam Allardyce, were able to avoid relegation from the Premier League last term, and his goals and assists proved crucial to their eventual safety.
He began the new season by getting clattered at Huddersfield which caused him to miss a number of games for Palace, which was disastrous for the club. They couldn’t buy a win until he returned to inspire and unlikely victory away at champions Chelsea no less.
- Victor Wanyama – Tottenham Hotspur & Kenya
A fairly glaring omission, Victor Wanyama was fantastic for Spurs last season in their narrow failure for the Premier League title.
The Kenyan powerhouse proved to be an absolute bargain buy from Southampton at only £11m, and forged a formidable partnership in holding midfield with Mousa Dembele.
Of course, he is a less glamorous name than some if the nominated stars but his importance to Spurs last season cannot be overstated.
Like Zaha, he has been injured for the majority of the new season and even though Spurs have been doing OK with Eric Dier and Harry Winks in midfield, there just isn’t the same tenacity and drive without him.
- Jean Michael Seri – OGC Nice & Ivory Coast
Jean Michael Seri really announced himself for French outfit Nice last season, and can probably count himself a little unlucky to have been snubbed for a nomination.
His dynamic performances in midfield last season helped carry the club to an impressive third-placed finish in the league, meaning they are featuring in this season’s Europa League.
The combative and energetic star has been crucial – last season he scored seven goals and had a pass accuracy of 90% in the league and since 2015/16 when he joined from Pacos de Ferreira, the team have won 53.8% of games with him in the side compared to just 12.5% without him (Opta).
- Eric Bailly – Manchester United & Ivory Coast
Manchester United are clearly on to a winner with Eric Bailly. The star has been highly impressive since coming in as Jose Mourinho’s first signing as Red Devils boss, and looks tailor-made to play in the Premier League.
Bailly has displayed excellent strength, tackling and defensive positioning during his time in English football so far, and it’s pretty scary to remember that he is still only 23.
A definite contender for future African Footballer of the Year awards.
- Keita Balde – Monaco & Senegal
Monaco did pretty well snagging Keita Balde this summer after he tore it up for Lazio over in Serie A last season that saw his name linked with a number of big clubs.
In 31 appearances last term, Balde scored 16 goals – an impressive return for a winger – helping Lazio to a fifth-placed finish, and Premier League clubs Liverpool, Tottenham and West Ham all showed an interest in the Senegal star.
Over in Ligue 1 he has started off in a similar vain, scoring three goals in six appearances and is doing his level best to help supporters get over the departure of Kylian Mbappe. He is another who is likely to be challenging for future African gongs.
- Thomas Partey – Atletico Madrid & Ghana
Like Seri for Nice, Thomas Partey has only come to the forefront in the past year or so and he certainly looks a player.
The 24-year-old is now one of Diego Simeone’s most important figures and has been a shining light this season in a relatively sub-par campaign for los Cholconeros.
The holding midfielder is an extremely well-rounded player, who can do the dirty work as well as express impressive flair, technique and leadership, which has been particularly evident for Ghana.