With perennial winners of the CAF African Footballer of the Year Award- Egypt’s Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mané of Senegal and Algeria’s Riyad Mahrez not enjoying their best of seasons; the trio having shared the top spots among themselves since 2016, Nigeria international and Napoli striker, Victor Osimhen is set to break their monopoly.
Scoring for free in a league as difficult as the Italian Serie A is a herculean task, but Victor Osimhen continues to do that week-in-week-out as he sets his sights on the Africa Footballer of the Year Award.
With the form of the Serie A top scorer, nobody would want to bet against him winning the CAF top prize, last won by a Nigerian in 1999-Nwankwo Kanu.
Victor Osimhen: African Footballer of the Year 2023?
Having scored 18 goals for Lille during the 2019/2020 season, the Nigerian international attracted interest from Italian club Napoli in the summer of that 2020 which earned him a €75 million (50 billion FCFA) move.
Despite struggling with injuries and COVID-19, the striker managed 10 goals in his first season with the Partenopei and then hit 18 goals in 32 matches in all competitions last season.
Osimhen has already netted 25 goals in 29 matches in all competitions so far this campaign, and Napoli are now on course to win the Scudetto again after over three decades. Napoli is already way ahead of others and no doubt, Osimhen’s goals have given the club a glimmer of hope in their quest for the Serie A title. Victor Osimhen is the favourite to finish as the Italian Serie A’s top scorer. If achieved, it will make him the first African player to reach that height. That would be an awesome achievement considering some of Africa’s greatest ever players – including George Weah and Samuel Eto’o – have previously starred in the Italian top flight.
With no African Nations Cup or World Cup competitions, Victor Osimhen is even more favourable to emerge winner of the African Footballer of the Year in 2023.
In 1997, Victor Ikpeba, then at AS Monaco, emerged as the best Player in Africa having not featured in an African tournament.
The AFCON tournament that was set for this year was postponed till 2024 and Ikpeba has advised the 24-year-old to keep his form at Napoli to stay ahead. Speaking on Supersport’s magazine show, Monday Night Football, Ikpeba said, “Osimhen doesn’t need to win the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) to be crowned the African Footballer of The Year for 2023. If Napoli wins the Serie A and they get to the latter stages of the UEFA Champions League, like the semi-finals or the final, he can be the African Footballer of The Year.”
“The Nations Cup and the World Cup was last year so it shouldn’t factor in much, Osimhen has won individual awards already and he currently is the best African player.”
“Remember that there is no AFCON this year so it makes Osimhen have a strong case especially if Napoli wins the Serie A. In 1997 when I won (African POTY award), there was no AFCON so I was judged based on my performance at my club side. So, he just needs to remain focused and keep doing what he’s doing because he has a huge chance to win the award.”
Also, the 24-year-old already has 5 goals in the on-going 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, including four in Nigeria’s 10-0 thrashing of Sao Tome and Principe. The former VFL Wolfsburg striker will play a very crucial role for the national team in their quest to qualify for the tournament billed to be held in the Ivory Coast in January 2024.
Osimhen’s excellent form in Italy also suggests that PSG’s Kylian Mbappé and Manchester City’s Erling Haaland are no longer the sole heirs to take over from Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi as perennial winners of the Ballon d’Or. Osimhen struck his 100th professional goal, which he achieved in 197 games. Incredibly, that is faster than it took Lionel Messi (210 matches) and Cristiano Ronaldo (301 games) to reach their first century of goals. Winning the Ballon d’Or and becoming its first Nigerian recipient, though, will require more than just scoring goals. It must also involve winning titles.
Osimhen has the talent, hunger, and desire to win it all – individual and collective honours – and the stars appear to be aligning in favour of the Super Eagles forward following his performances for the Neapolitans in Italy and Europe.
But who are the biggest stars who can rival Osimhen and possibly even beat him to the award in 2023?
Which African star can win the 2023 African Football of the Year?
The current holder of the award, Sadio Mane, has enjoyed a near-seamless integration at Bayern Munich and will likely win the Bundesliga in his first season in Germany.
But with 11 goals and five assists in 28 appearances, the 30-year-old is not even the best player in Munich.
And with injury keeping him out of the 2022 World Cup, Mane’s chances of winning the CAF top award is already diminished.
Despite scoring 22 goals and providing 11 assists in 39 appearances, Salah has performed below his usual high standards.
The Egyptian forward is facing a barren campaign, with Liverpool out of the Premier League race and the Reds already out of the Champions League.
Salah remains a favourite among voters, but it would be hard to claim his third POTY award on the back of his indifferent displays this term.
Manchester City’s Riyad Mahrez completes the list of the usual suspects.
2023 could be the year the Algerian magician finally adds another CAF African Footballer of the Year award to the one he won in 2016.
The 32-year-old winger has managed 12 goals and seven assists already this season. And should Manchester City retain the Premier League and reach the latter stages of the Champions League, Mahrez would be the biggest stumbling block to Osimhen’s podium finish at the CAF awards.
After becoming the first African nation to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup in Qatar, Morocco could have one or two of their biggest stars in the shout for the continent’s best player award.
That Moroccan team had several standout performers, including goalkeeper Yassine Bono, midfielders Sofyan Amrabat and Azzedine Ounahi, and defender Achraf Hakimi.
Backed by PSG exploits in France, right-back Achraf Hakimi could, however, be the only one nominated for the top honour. With four goals and five assists in 32 appearances already this season, 8th placed Hakimi in the 2022 awards could hope for a place on the podium finish if voters consider the World Cup achievements added to Ligue Un success.
The 24-year-old played a very important role for his side and even scored the winning penalty against Spain in the Round of 16. Hakimi was rewarded for his outstanding 2022 season with his club Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and his odyssey into world cup history with the Moroccan national squad bagging the Best Arab Sportsman in Saudi Arabia.
The Ghanaian international has been one of the best African players in Europe’s English Premier League. He has represented his country in three Africa Cup of Nations (2017, 2019, and 2021) and the FIFA World Cup in 2022. Thomas joined Arsenal in 2020 and has appeared in 92 games, scoring five goals.
Ghanaian midfielder Partey has been instrumental to the recent success of Arsenal as the English Premier League table topper. The 29-year-old has risen to the occasion after suffering an injury that kept him out of the in-form Gunners side.
According to Statsperform, Partey averages 66 passes per match, with a pass completion rate of 87 per cent so far this season. He has a starting eleven participation of 75% in the EPL, having played 74% of EPL minutes with a goal participation of 5% in the EPL. If Arsenal do win the Premier League this year, Thomas Partey will surely be on the voter cards for African Footballer of the year.
Mohammed Kudus certainly has the right to dream this season. The former Right to Dream Academy Ghanaian player is having an excellent season with Ajax Amsterdam. A two-time Dutch champion winner and Dutch cup winner since his arrival in the Netherlands in 2020, team and individual accolades have been ever present for the young forward. After being labelled a promising talent following his transfer to Danish club Nordsjaelland, 2022/2023 is the season which promise has transferred to reality.
With 18 goals and 5 assists in 36 appearances for his club this season, he has started attracting the kind of attention deserving of the status of the club where numerous promising starlets have been transformed to good players before moving on to world-class status. Expect Kudus in the CAF team of the year at all costs!
Vincent Aboubakar had a memorable World Cup tournament. Catalyst for the turnaround against Serbia when Cameroon was being led 1-3, reminiscent of former legend Roger Milla, the striker entered the fray in the 55th minute and eight minutes later scored one of the memorable goals of the tournament after rounding up a defender and chipping an exquisite ball over goalkeeper Vanja Milinkovic-Savic.
He then provided the assist for in-form Bayern Munchen striker, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, three minutes later, who scored the equaliser. But the Cameroon icon who illuminated fans in the AFCON with his 8 goals wasn’t done yet. Against tournament favourites Brazil, he scored another milestone goal for Cameroon. The current Besiktas forward is on 3 goals and one assist in seven appearances (plus 4 goals and 2 assists in 12 appearances for Al Nassr). Despite coming in at 10th place in the 2022 event, hopes are higher this year for a top-five finish.
Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting
Stating the obvious that Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting is in the form of his life would be an understatement. With 17 goals and 4 assists in 26 appearances, Choupo-Moting has earned himself a contract extension with Bayern while relegating Robert Lewandowski’s past exploits to be momentarily forgotten. With Bayern still active in three competitions this season, and Choupo-Moting placed as the central striker in a 4-2-3-1 tactical set-up, there’s no denying that Julian Nagelsmann’s team are favourites for all three competitions this season. The forward who has a litany of free transfers in his expansive football career has a burgeoning trophy cabinet of nine trophies. Can he finally win the lacking individual trophy at the expense of Victor Osimhen at the twilight of his career?
After a two-year absence due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2022 African Footballer of the Year was officially crowned. The African continent has been a serious hotspot of talented footballers through the years. Despite the lack of exposure in their home continent, many footballers have moved to Europe and made their mark in the European Leagues for many big clubs.
New Bayern Munich signing Sadio Mane took home the award for 2022 edging out former Liverpool teammate Mohamed Salah and Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy.
Mane also took the African Footballer of the Year in 2019 when the award was last handed out before the COVID-19 pandemic having finished runner-up to Salah in 2018 and 2017. Sadio Mane became the 10th player to win the African Footballer of the Year award more than once.
The honour is now judged based on accomplishments over the past season rather than a single calendar year.
It was a 2021-22 campaign to remember for Mane whose penalties saw Senegal win the Africa Cup of Nations and qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup even though he didn’t feature in Qatar due to injury.
At club level before moving to Germany, Mane helped Liverpool to FA Cup and Carabao Cup success, though the Reds did fall short in the Premier League and UEFA Champions League.
The award in its current format has been handed out by the Confederation of African Football since 1992. Prior to the African Footballer of the Year award, the Golden Ball award was presented by France Football magazine from 1970 to 1994.
Samuel Eto’o and Yaya Toure currently hold the record for most African Footballer of the Year wins having taken out the honour four times.
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