There are players who were exceptionally outstanding for both club and country in their careers but missed out on recognition to be African Footballer of the Year.
It could be surprising that they never bagged the prestigious award which was started by France Football and is now run by Caf. FARPost takes a look at such players who enjoy legendary status in African football but could not claim this gong.
- Mohamed Aboutrika
While based in Africa and turning out for Al Ahly, Aboutrika was first runner-up in the 2008 African Footballer of the Year award won by Emmanuel Adebayor and the Egyptian beat Michael Essien who was second runner-up. He was also a nominee for the 2006 award. A two-time Afcon winner (in 2006 and 2008), Aboutrika also won five Caf Champions League titles with Al Ahly.
- Laurent Pokou
A prolific striker during his days, the Ivorian came second in the inaugural African Footballer of the Year award in 1970. He was the Afcon top-scorer at 1968 and 1970 finals, also capping the latter edition as Player of the Tournament. Pokou turned out for Asec Mimosas, Rennes and AS Nancy.
- Joseph-Antoine Bell
The ex-Cameroon goalkeeper came close to claiming the African Footballer of the Year award after being best runner-up in 1984 and 1989. A former Marseille, Bordeaux and Saint-Etienne gloveman, he was part of the Indomitable Lions squad that won the 1984 and 1988 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) tournament. He also travelled to three Fifa World Cups but prominently featured at the 1994 edition.
- Asamoah Gyan
Holding the record of being Africa’s top goal-scorer at the World Cup, scoring six goals in three editions, it is a surprise that Gyan has never been named Africa’s finest player. The closest he came was best runner-up in 2010.
- Ahmed Hassan
The former Egypt midfielder won four Afcon titles, three as captain, and was named Player of the Tournament in 2006 and 2010. With 184 Pharaohs caps, Hassan holds the world’s all-time record appearances for a national team by a male player. He also enjoyed club success by winning league titles in Turkey and Belgium for Besiktas and Anderlecht respectively.
- Benni McCarthy
Then 20-years-old, former South Africa forward was named Player of the Tournament at the 1998 Afcon competition where he also emerged as the Golden Boot winner which he shared with Egypt’s Hossam Hassan. That year, he scored his debut World Cup goal for Bafana Bafana in France, before again finding the back of the next at the 2002 finals. South Africa’s all-time top goal-scorer with 31 goals was also the 2003/04 Portuguese Primeira Liga Golden Boot winner, a season in which he played an instrumental role in FC Porto’s Uefa Champions League triumph. A league title in the Netherlands with Ajax Amsterdam as well as two Primeira Liga crowns also made McCarthy one of the game’s greats in Africa.
- Michael Essien
The Ghanaian midfielder was second-runner up on four occasions and also came second in the battle to be named the best player on the African continent. All those close finishes came in five consecutive years. At club level, two Ligue 1 titles with Lyon and as many Premier League crowns with Chelsea plus a Uefa Champions League winners’ medal helped Essien raise his hand to be considered for the continental award.
- Samuel Kuffour
Following steely performances as Bayern Munich finished 1999 Uefa Champions League runners-up, before becoming Europeans champions in 2001, Kuffour appeared to be in good standing to be crowned African Footballer of the Year. But the ex-Ghana central defender came out second-best to Nwankwo Kanu and El Hadji Diouf in those years. Six Bundesliga titles also decorated his career as he made his case to be considered as Africa’s best.
- Bruce Grobbelaar
Playing a critical role in Liverpool’s haul of six league titles between 1982 and 1990 is no mean feat. The eccentric former Zimbabwe goalkeeper was also on top of his game as he helped the Reds claim the 1984 European Cup (now Uefa Champions League) to become the first African to taste glory in Europe’s elite competition. Although he saw no national team success, Grobbelaar is still counted amongst the greatest goalkeepers of all time.
- Jay-Jay Okocha
It reads like a scandal that the skillful former Nigeria captain was never an African Footballer of the Year. He was best runner-up to Morocco’s Mustapha Hadji in 1998 while playing for French giants Paris Saint-Germain and was third best in 2003 where he came behind Samuel Eto’o and Didier Drogba. In 1994, Okocha helped the Super Eagles claim the Afcon tittle in Tunisia after beating Zambia in the final. He also delivered his best at the 2004 Afcon finals where he was joint top goal-scorer as Nigeria settled for bronze. A master of trickery, he did not win major trophies at club level in the Bundesliga, Turkish Super Lig, Ligue 1 and Premier League, but it was his flair which charmed the football world.
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