With the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt done and dusted, attention now focuses on the potential candidate that would claim the Africa Footballer of the Year Award.
There is no doubt that this year’s AFCON have showcased players that are blessed with qualities regardless of the fact that the Desert Foxes of Algeria won the major honour.
However, the main talking point is, who will wear the crown as Africa finest player for 2019? Will it Sadio Mane, Riyald Mahrez or Mohamed Salah?
One name that would be on the lips of many football pundits would be Ryhad Mahrez, who played a key role in helping Algeria win the bi-annual tournament for the second time since Algiers 90′.
The Manchester City midfielder marshalled the Algerian midfield with ease, with his televising passes and eye for goals that saw the team conquer teams like Nigeria, Senegal en rout lifting the trophy.
Besides, his performance in Europe for the Citizens was also crucial as he lifted the English Premier League, FA Cup and the Emirates Cup last season.
However, will that be enough to win him the Africa best in January 2020 considering what has happened in 2014?
Knowing fully that in 2014 former Super Eagles captain and midfielder, Mikel Obi narrowly lost the award to Cote d’Ivoire’s Yaya Toure despite winning the Africa Cup of Nations in 2013.
Mikel was highly favoured by many Nigerians who saw his exploits and team successes with club and country in 2013 as the best credentials to claim the award which has eluded Nigerian footballers since Kanu Nwankwo won it in the year 1999.
Recall that Yaya only won the English Premier League with Manchester City and lost to Nigeria in the quarter-final of the AFCON and still went home with the award.
This scenario could also play against Mahrez knowing that Egypt forward, Mo Salah won the UEFA Champions League with Liverpool last season and played a key part in the team’s failed attempt to win the Premier League.
Lovingly dubbed the ‘Egyptian King’ by the Anfield faithful, Salah wrote himself into Liverpool folklore by relentlessly finding the back of the net and winning countless individual awards in the process. Salah has become only the second Liverpool player in Premier League history to finish as the division’s top scorer for two consecutive seasons after Michael Owen initially achieved the same feat back in 1997/98 and 1998/99.
Likewise, Senegal Sadio Mane, who also won the UEFA Champions League and narrowly lost out to Mahrez’s Algeria in the final of the AFCON. Apart from scoring vital goals and maintaining his consistent brilliance, Sadio Mane has also been impressive when it comes to stepping up and providing answers when it really matters this season and that is another thing that proves he has been more influential than Mohamed Salah for Liverpool during the term.
Statistically, Salah made 52 appearances and scored 27 goals in all competitions for Liverpool last season; Mahrez netted 12 goals in 44 appearances for Manchester City while Mane scored 26 goals in 50 appearances for the Reds last season.
In terms of assists in the Premier League, Salah had 8, Mahrez 4 and Mane just one.
Interestingly, since the winner of the award will be judged by the number of votes, it is expected that the North Africans would split their votes for either of Salah and Mahrez while hoping to get a favourable vote from the West, South and East Africa.