It’s been 21 years since any Nigerian won the coveted CAF Footballer of the Year award, and former international Tijani Babangida has identified the root cause of the problem.
Ex-Super Eagles winger, Babangida, believes the inability of Nigerian players to star in Europe’s major leagues within the last two decades is the chief reason none of his compatriots has been crowned as the best player on the continent.
The former Ajax ace is also of the opinion that the country’s constant failings at the African Cup of Nations may be another reason footballers of Nigerian descents have not claimed Africa’s most coveted individual honour.
Nwankwo Kanu was the last Nigerian to be named Africa’s Best back in 1999 – his second honour – by which time he had already played for Ajax, Inter Milan, and Arsenal.
Three-time champions, Nigeria won her last title in 2013, almost two decades after picking up her second triumph in Tunisia.
Babangida insists that these anomalies must be corrected before the glory days can return for the country and her footballers.
“Most of our players now play in the lower leagues, and the national team only won the AFCON once after 1994 and missed out of qualification in the last two editions before 2019, that is the difference,” the former Barcelona winger told The Punch.
“In the last awards, we had Ighalo in contention; we also had Mane, who won the Champions League with Liverpool, while Ighalo played in China.
“If we look at players of this generation, we only had Mikel in that category because he won the Premier League and the Champions League with Chelsea and also won the AFCON with the Eagles. He is the only player who deserved the award but didn’t win it,” the ex-winger added.