In what was an exciting year of football for the continent, African players competed in the Nations Cup, World Cup qualifiers, as well as at club level.
After the initial 25-man shortlist was broken down, three men stood tall: Didier Drogba, Yaya Toure, both of the Ivory Coast, and John Obi Mikel of Nigeria.
Which of these three will come out tops? Who deserves the accolade? The AllSports team gives its verdict on who should be crowned Africa’s best:
From the look of things, Ivory Coast and Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure is odds on favourite to win the award; but if there is any justice in this world, or in African football for that matter, John Obi Mikel will be crowned Africa’s best player tomorrow in Lagos.
Of the three competing for the award, Mikel’s contribution to the African game was the biggest, as he led Nigeria to the 2013 African Cup of Nations title at the start of the year. En route to the final, he helped the Super Eagles triumph over an Ivorian team that included both Drogba and Yaya Toure. He shone at the tourney, as he was elected man of the match on no less than three occasions, and unsurprisingly was named in the team of the tournament.
Added to this, he was a key figure in the Nigerian team, as they overcame the Wayla Antelopes of Ethiopia to book their place at the World Cup.
Often berated for his inability to find the back of the net, he did so for Nigeria in the Confederations Cup, with a well placed goal. His scoring rate for Chelsea has improved, as he netted his second goal of the season in their most recent FA Cup tie.
Drogba, despite winning the Turkish title, is certainly not the Drogba of old; a fact which led to his being dropped from the Ivory Coast team earlier in the year.
There’s no disputing Yaya Toure’s contribution to Ivory Coast’s World Cup qualification as well as for club Man City. But his inability to annex a trophy counts against him.
In terms of contribution to the African game, Mikel stands head and shoulders above all. If the usual pattern of championship winning players being awarded end of the year awards is anything to go by, John Mikel Obi should be crowned Africa’s best.
John Obi Mikel for me too, without the slightest doubt.
His competitors – the Ivorian duo of Yaya Toure and Didier Drogba – are class acts worthy of competing fiercely with the world’s best in their prime. But if CAF appreciates balance (club and country contributions) and the significance of success (winning competitions), then looking past Mikel – who edges the duo on both counts – would be an injustice.
Looking for a visible role in the success of a team in an international competition? He ticks that box, with his graceful play making command in the midfield of Nigeria during that dramatic run to the Africa Cup of Nations title in South Africa last year.
Looking for a visible role in the success of a team in a major club competition? Mikel has that covered too, contributing his quota effectively towards Chelsea’s Europa League winning efforts last year.
Not to talk of how he embodied the admirable defiance of Nigeria at the Confederations Cup in Brazil, albeit Nigeria making an early exit. It was a magical year for him, after all he’s been through.
The 26-year-old has come a long way through years of many, many lows and few highs since being tipped for greatness at the Under 17 World Cup in 2005. He’s been through positional crisis, confidence battering criticism and scathing ridicule, as well as a persistent gloom with regards to his attacking, and for that matter, goal scoring propensity.
He’s lived through years stuck within a complex of seemingly static development; causing many who once believed in him to write him off.
Mikel might have not fully lived up to the standards his potential years ago projected yet, but he did have a year that saw him mature as a footballer – a sort of maturity that translated to consequential contributions to his various teams’ successes.
His achievements over the past year puts him head and shoulders above his competitors. Give Obi African football’s greatest individual prize.
He deserves it.
GODFRED AKOTO BOAFO
I am still trying to wrap my head around how Didier Drogba made this list so I will not waste time in placing him third.The captain of the Elephants is a very pale shadow of his once dominant self and I scratched my head to recall anything of significance he achieved in 2013.
Yaya Toure is the reigning player of the year and had another consistent season particularly with his club Manchester City.He seems to get better with each passing year and is the face of African football.It is rare to find an African player so widely respected and feared for his football skills yet he has achieved that unique combo.He has added goals to his marauding breaks but at international level failed to drag the Elephants to an African title.World Cup qualification was achieved with ease.
Yaya plays second fiddle to none.Except this year.
John Obi Mikel carries the prize in my estimation.The Chelsea star came of age in 2013,finally showing his true potential with world class performances for Nigeria,culminating in the AFCON win in February.Chelsea also benefitted from his fine form as they won the Europa cup and at the Confederations cup in Brazil,raised his game to a new level.
There is no denying that Mikel has grown on soccer fans like a song that is repeated so many times it becomes a hit.2013 saw him atop the Billboard charts.
MICHAEL OTI ADJEI
The Confederation of African of Football will name who the African Player of the Year is on Thursday evening in Lagos and my hope, belief and conviction is that it must be Yaya Toure for a fourth time.
Toure is up against Didier Drogba and Mikel Obi for the most prestigious individual prize in African football and while there are those who insist he doesn’t deserve it because Cote D’Ivore did not win the Cup of Nations, I strongly disagree.
In the last months I have had some good mannered discussions with a lot of people mostly from Nigeria who think it is Mikel Obi’s awards. The crust of the argument is simple: Nigeria won the Nations Cup so a key architech of that who also played a key part as Chelsea won the Europa League must win it.
I disagree. I have never been in doubt that individual awards are what they are. Individual awards and that individual merits matters above any other consideration. Toure’s form on the pitch for Manchester City has been the singular most important advertisement for the African game in 2013.
He is boss in midfield, he dominates a team with the likes of Sergio Aguero, he drives the team forward, he makes them thick and has ensured that over the years, Africa’s reputation as a breading ground for worl class midfielders has been maintained.
Added to that is the range of free kicks he has added to his game. He bends them in with some technique. We are not just looking at a tough tackling midfielder, we are looking at a man who can at this stage walk into any team in the world which is something that cannot be said of the other two.
Strip the lame he did not win Afcon argument and there is no argument in terms of pure ability, influence on teams and in advancing Africa’s reputation no one did more to make Africa’s case than Yaya Toure where it matters most: at the highest level of football in Europe. It is laughable to think any other player was better than him, trophies or not.