The BBC 2017 African Footballer of the Year will be announced next month, with intense competition between the five nominees. Following the 2016 award being won by Leicester and Algeria midfielder Riyad Mahrez, three of five players in line for this years’ award also play in the Premier League – with Naby Keïta soon to join them. Here are the nominees for the 2017 Award.
The Five Contenders for African Footballer of the Year
Scoring five goals in World Cup Qualifying, as well as the decisive penalty against Congo in October has turned Mohamed Salah into an Egyptian footballing hero. The Pharaoh’s have qualified for the World Cup for the first time since 1990, with Salah playing a monumental role in their qualification.
Pace and trickery are two of the 25-year-olds strongest attributes. The ability to exploit opposition backlines and maintain composure in goal-scoring situations is what’s helping Salah to continue to contribute in an attacking sense for both club and country.
In terms of his club successes, the Egyptian netted 15 goals and contributed with a further 11 assists for AS Roma in the 2016/17 Serie A season. Following his £36 million transfer to Liverpool in the summer, Salah has well and truly hit the ground running to close out 2017, scoring a further 12 goals this season for Jürgen Klopp’s Reds.
As one of only two African nominees for the 2017 Ballon d’Or, Borussia Dortmund’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is well as truly one of Europe’s elite strikers. Blistering pace and a lethal instinct in front of goal has helped the 28-year-old to remain in this category of upper echelon centre-forwards.
The Gabon international made history in the 2016/17 Bundesliga season, netting 31 goals in 32 games for Dortmund. This incredible consistency and productivity in an attacking sense has continued into the early stages of the current Bundesliga season. Aubameyang already has ten league goals to his name and is expected to bag plenty more in the upcoming weeks and months.
Despite their controversial rise through the German footballing pyramid over the last decade, nobody quite expected RB Leipzig to finish runners-up in the 2016/17 Bundesliga standings, maintaining a legitimate title challenge for much of the season. A lot of that was down to the work of Guinea midfielder Naby Keïta.
The 22-year-old’s energy as a box-to-box midfielder was integral to Leipzig’s league success. Excelling in ball recovery and a midfield press, Keïta was key to quick transitions from defence to attack. Additionally, for a central midfielder, his return of eight goals and seven assists was not bad at all.
Described as a mix between Andres Iniesta and N’Golo Kanté, the Guinean International has earned himself a £48million transfer to Liverpool, in which he will join up with the squad on 1st July 2018. He should be an excellent addition for Klopp, as an energetic and versatile central midfielder that will win battles in the middle of the park.
Along with Aubameyang, Liverpool’s Sadio Mané is the other African Ballon d’Or nominee, following a fantastic 2016/17 campaign. Despite missing months of the season due to the African Cup of Nations in January, as well knee surgery in April, Mané netted 13 Premier League goals, playing a vital role in the Anfield Side’s top four finish.
With his pace, skill and end product, the 25-year-old is fast becoming Liverpool’s most important player. So far this season, Mané has scored three goals and assisted twice. In addition to his growing success at club level following his transfer from Southampton in the summer of 2016, Mané has also played a key role for the Senegalese national side – so much so that Senegal have qualified for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Following multiple transfers and loan spells at various clubs, Victor Moses has found himself a key role in Antonio Conte’s Chelsea side. The 2016/17 season was a turning point for the 26-year-old, with Conte’s formational change in the early stages of the season giving Moses his opportunity.
The revert to 3-4-3 gave Moses the opportunity to prove himself as a right wing-back and that he has done excellently. His workmanlike style, his contribution from a wide position in attacking situations, and his ability to track back has made him a great fit in this unfamiliar position. As well as this, Moses will play in the 2018 World Cup, after once again playing a role in Nigeria’s qualification.