African business, politics and lifestyle
Who is Africa’s best footballer?
Although the continent has long been a conveyor belt of talent, genuine world stars from the African continent have been few and far between.
Liberia’s George Weah was winner of the World Player of the Year and also won Europe’s Ballon d’Or, but it could be argued both awards came in a quiet year.
Mozambique-born Eusebio achieved his fame and repute in the colours of colonial Portugal and has never had his achievements genuinely accepted by African fans.
But over the last years, a sprinkling of world class stars have emerged, leaving the suggestion African football has never been a more exciting commodity than at present.
Didier Drogba, Samuel Eto’o and Emmanuel Adebayor have all won the African Footballer of the Year award in recent years while Michael Essien has been a consistent nominee.
All four find themselves at the pinnacle of the world game, playing for clubs who all this week won through to the semifinals of the UEFA Champions League, universally accepted as a club competition without peer.
That the African quartet are among the most influential in the competition is a source of great pride to the continent. But it has also launched a massive debate as to who is the finest African footballer of his day.
Eto’o has won three African Footballer of the Year titles; Drogba one but it should have been two had he not been deprived of the other by the egos of the game’s administrators. Adebayor was named the 2008 Footballer of the Year, perhaps a little generously.
Essien is a persistent top three finisher in the poll of the last five years, but by far the most consistent of the quartet.
Each candidate has merit. Eto’o has had a distinguished career for both club and country and played in one more World Cup than the other three. He also helped Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions to two successive African Nations Cup titles in 2000 ands 2002.
The way he has resurrected his career at Barcelona also attests to the feisty spirit which he brings to the game but it is his pace off the mark that is most breathtaking.
Ivory Coast captain Drogba has power and finishing acumen but did not distinguish himself with a sulky attitude earlier this season when Luiz Filipe Scolari was manager at Chelsea.
Essien is a machine, running and plundering like a warrior of old. He is the best Ghanaian footballer since Abedi Pele. Adebayor’s spindly frame suggests a gangly game but how well he has done since moving from the fringes of the first team at Monaco to Arsenal.
Goals in both legs against Villarreal in the Champions League quarter-final were proof of his elevation to the ranks of the world class. Plus he single handedly carries his tiny country Togo at international level.
The question now which one is the best African footballer? If a vote were to be taken today, who could claim the heritage of Eusebio and Weah?