Victor Osimhen is the favourite to be named the 2023 CAF Africa Player of the Year award following a sensational last 12 months with Napoli and Nigeria.
The Super Eagles forward aims to become the first Nigeria to claim the prestigious honour since Nwankwo Kanu was named Africa’s Best Player in 1999.
The ensuing 24-year period is the longest Nigerians have had to wait to see a compatriot outshine other stars from across the continent and lift the coveted award since CAF instituted the award in 1992.
Ghana’s Abedi Pele deservedly won the inaugural award, only for Nigerians to dominate the honours list for the next six years.
Rashidi Yekini was the winner in 1993, while Emmanuel Amuneke claimed the gong the following year, beating compatriot Rashidi Yekini and Liberia’s George Weah to joint second.
Weah won in 1995, but he faced a stiff challenge from Amunike and Daniel Amokachi, who came second and third, respectively.
Nwankwo Kanu, the only Nigerian to win Africa’s Best Player award twice, bagged the first of his collection in 1996 after guiding Africa to the first Olympic gold medal in football.
Taribo West finished third, while Chad’s Japhet N’Doram came second as Victor Ikpeba claimed the award in 1997, taking over from Kanu as Africa’s number one.
However, Nigeria’s two-year reign ended when Austin Okocha and Sunday Oliseh were narrowly beaten to the honours by Morocco’s Mustapha Hadji in 1998.
The 1999 race was a close one, but Kanu secured two more points than Ghana’s Samuel Kuffour to land the last title claimed by a Nigerian to date.
A few Nigerians have come close since then: Okocha finished in third place in 2003 and 2004, and Mikel John Obi would feel he should have finished higher when he was beaten to the award by Yaya Touré in 2013 when Nigeria won the Africa Cup of Nations for a fourth time.
Goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama is the last Nigerian to make the final three shortlist in 2014, and it was no surprise to see him lose out to eventual winner Touré and first runner-up Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
For the first time in nine years, Osimhen becomes the first Nigerian to make a podium finish at the CAF Awards.
However, can the Napoli striker take it a step further and break a 24-year jinx to put Nigeria’s green-and-white flag back in the winner’s column of Africa’s Best Player Award?