4 January 2017

Africa: Who Will Win the 2016 African Player of the Year Award?

Photo: CAF
Algerian winger Riyad Mahrez as African Player of the Year 2016 and Ugandan goalie, Denis Onyango as African Player of the Year – Based in Africa 2016.

Africa's finest footballer for the year 2016 will be crowned on Thursday at the 25th edition of the annual Caf (Confederation of African Football) Awards gala at the International Conference Centre in Abuja, Nigeria.

The 2015 winner Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Gabon, Algeria's Riyad Mahrez and Senegalese Sadio Mane are in the running for the top prize.

Egypt's Mohamed Salah and Islam Slimani of Algeria had made it to the final five list before been dropped last month. The first nominees list featured 30 players including Harambee Stars captain Victor Wanyama and striker Jesse Were.

Aubameyang's victory last year ended Ivory Coast midfielder Yaya Toure's run of winning the trophy in four successive years. Mahrez stands a great chance of dethroning him after a stunning 2016 in which he helped Leicester City win their maiden English Premier League title and won the English Players' Player of the Year award.

Mane, 24, who moved from Southampton to Liverpool this season, has so far scored nine goals and registered four assists for the Merseyside club who lie second in the EPL table.

According to Caf online, a total of 15 players have won African football most prestigious individual award since its inauguration in 1992, with Ghanaian legend Abedi Pele its very first winner.

Samuel Eto'o of Cameroon was the first player to win the award four times- 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2010; a record since equalled by Toure, who made it four on the trot (2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014). Former Senegal forward, El Hadji Diouf won the award twice in a row; 2001 and 2002.

Ex- Nigerian captain and former Arsenal star Nwankow Kanu was the first footballer to win the Player of the Year award on two occasions in 1996 and 1999 before Ivorian Didier Drogba replicated the feat in 2006 and 2009.

Winners of the prestigious honour have come from either the midfield or attack; and that tradition will be respected yet again this time, with the three contenders being attackers. Ivory Coast leads as the country with the highest number of wins, - six in total, with Nigeria and Cameroon following closely with five wins apiece.

Liberian George Weah, who won the accolade in 1995, is the only African player to date who has won the European and World Player titles (both in 1995). Abuja will play host to the prestigious event for the third time, having also hosted it in 2004 and 2015.

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