Three premier league players have been named in the five man shortlist for the BBC African player of the year award. 2013’s winner, Yaya Toure, is joined by premier league colleagues Andre Ayew and Saido Mane making up 60% of the shortlist for one of Africa’s most prestigious awards.
Yaya Toure has had a mixed 2015. He is the man who has assumed the role of Africa’s superstar since decline in the careers of Didier Drogba and Samuel Eto’o. Finally winning the African Cup of Nations in February, something Drogba never managed, established his name as one of Africa’s greatest ever.
Contrastingly back in Manchester, City never looked like catching Chelsea, ultimately finishing 8 points off the league champions. However the new season has seen a rejuvenated Manchester City currently sitting top of the league and Toure starting in 11 of the 12 league games so far. His success with Les Elephants early this year may be enough to clinch the award in a period that has not consistently seen the best from Africa’s household name.
On the receiving end of Yaya Toure’s African Nations Cup victory was Ghanaian forward Andre Ayew. Although he dispatched his penalty it wasn’t enough to prevent the Black Stars from losing the 2015 final through the cruel lottery of the shoot-out. Despite falling short of glory Ayew had a strong tournament finishing joint top scorer with 3 goals.
His move to Swansea last summer was arguably the best piece of business by any club in England (if not Europe). The notion that a 25 year old, who has already appeared in the champions league and at two world cups can be signed on free by a team without significant continental pedigree seems absurd. Ayew is an established player both internationally with Ghana and at club level having been one of Marseilles’ most prominent players over the last few seasons. His free transfer to an average side like Swansea shows both the enduring lure of the Premier League but also the inane undervaluation of African players across Europe.
Nevertheless, a fine string of performances saw Ayew named Premier League player of the month for August. 5 goals in 10 games for Swansea is a promising start for a player who could make a real impact on the English game. His talent was recognised previously in 2011 when he won the award. Winning BBC’s African Player of 2015 would be some consolation for a player that has been criminally undervalued by Europe’s top clubs this year.
Sadio Mane, arrived at Southampton in the summer of 2014 for a costly £11million after impressing in the Austrian Bundesliga with RedBull Salzberg. Mane hit the ground running scoring 10 goals last season, making him yet another success on Southampton’s freakishly sound recruitment record. After a disappointing African Cup of Nations with Senegal the highlight of Mane’s year came on the final day of last season against Aston Villa. On May 16th 2015, Mane scored 3 times in 2 minutes 56 seconds, smashing Robbie Fowler’s record for the leagues fastest ever hat-trick.
Whispers of interest from Manchester United have appeared across the back pages of the British press and a continuation of last season’s fine form has done nothing to dampen the rumours. Mane is on the brink of becoming one of Africa’s leading stars however lack of success at international level may mean the Senegalese winger misses out this time.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and last year’s winner Yancine Brahimi are the other two players on the perhaps excessively Premier League-centric shortlist.
Aubameyang has been Europe’s hottest striker this season scoring 14 in 12 games for Dortmund including two hat-tricks in October. There can be no doubt that the Gabonese forward is currently Africa’s slickest export.
A move to one of Europe’s big boys appears imminent. Arsenal and Liverpool have both shown interest but Aubameyang sees his future in Spain, he told BBC World Service: “Maybe one day I’ll leave to play in another league because my dream is to play in Spain. The Premier League? Lots of people think that it would be good for me but my mum is Spanish and I really have that dream to play over there.” It is reported that Barca are currently keeping tabs on the 26 year old. Based on current form alone Aubameyang would win the award indisputably although a lack of silverware in 2015 may stifle his case to be named Africa’s best player.
Holder of the award, Yacine Brahimi, for all his talent, has not set the world alight in 2015. Brahimi was the star of an Algeria team who reached the knockout stages of last year’s World Cup, losing only to Germany after extra-time. Subsequently, Algeria were favourites to go on to become champions of Africa in Equatorial Guinea however a timid quarter final display saw them get knocked out against eventual winners Ivory Coast.
Aside from this, on a personal level Brahimi had a sterling first season with Portuguese heavyweights Porto, although silverware was to allude him once again. Brahimi is as technically proficient as they come but in an unremarkable year chances of him retaining the crown appear slight.
It is also worth mentioning two notable absences from the list. Mohamed Salah, who was never really given a chance at Chelsea, shone on loan at Fiorentina in the second half of last season. 6 goals in 16 appearances for La Viola was enough to earn him a move to Italy’s capital where his form has continued; hitting the net 6 times for Roma this season. The catastrophic fortunes of the Egyptian national side, who have failed to qualify for every major tournament since the country’s Arab Spring revolution, is probably the deciding factor in Salah’s admission from the list.
Another player who may feel aggrieved to have missed out is Leicester City’s Riyad Mahrez. The Algerian’s 8 goals from the wing coupled with Jamie Vardy’s purple patch has fired Leicester to third in the Premiership. If Mahrez continues to produce such fine displays he will no doubt be a front runner for the award in 2016.
The winner of BBC’s African Player of the Year will be announced to next month.