African Player of the Year: Ranking the top five contenders

Source Goal.com

CAF revealed their 30-man shortlist for the 2019 African Player of the Year this week, with the continent’s finest stars set to be whittled down to a final three ahead of the awards ceremony in Hurghada in January.

In this feature, Goal’s Ed Dove reveals his five favourites for the award.

Mohamed Salah

The reigning African Player of the Year has made the 30-man shortlist again this time around, and must be considered one of the favourites for the award.

Salah has enjoyed yet another magnificent campaign, and while he didn’t match the heights of the season before, 22 league goals represents an excellent return—and was enough to clinch the Golden Boot.

He also scored the only goal of the game in the Champions League final—his fifth of the campaign—making up for the previous season’s disappointment at the hands of Real Madrid.

Hakim Ziyech

Ziyech remains in the Eredivisie, with Ajax, despite interest from Sevilla, although it’s surely a matter of time before he moves on to a major club in one of Europe’s top five leagues.

The Morocco international has been the outstanding player in the Dutch top flight so far this term—weighing in with 15 combined goals and assists in 13 league games so far—having clinched a domestic double last season.

He scored 16 and contributed 13 assists across 2018-19 as Ajax clinched the title, but saved some of his best performances for the Amsterdam heavyweights’ run to the UCL semi-final, where they were defeated by Tottenham Hotspur.

Sadio Mane

As well as playing a key role in Senegal’s run to the Nations Cup final, Mane also equalled Salah’s return of 22 Premier League goals to clinch the division’s Golden Boot.

He took his game to another level last season, stepping up to play a key role in Liverpool’s title challenge during the Egyptian’s slump, and, on occasion, winning games single-handedly.

Some of Mane’s performances—that showing against Bayern Munich springs to mind—demonstrated a player at the peak of his powers, and it was the West African who won the decisive penalty in the Champions League final victory over Spurs.

Riyad Mahrez

The Algeria superstar isn’t yet a regular starter at club level under Manchester City, and is yet to truly justify the astronomical fee that took him to the Etihad Stadium from Leicester City.

However, he’s coming off the back of a campaign in which he won five pieces of silverware under Pep Guardiola, and weighed in with his own memorable contributions along the way.

That was followed up with a star turn—and a series of excellent performances—as Algeria clinched the Africa Cup of Nations in nearby Egypt.

Perhaps Mahrez wasn’t as consistently brilliant as he was when Leicester won the Premier League in such miraculous fashion, but few African players have enjoyed as much success as he has over the last 18 months.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

The third African footballer to share the top scorer award in the Premier League, Auba’s 22-goal haul in the Premier League last term is more impressive in light of the muddle at Arsenal.

Indeed, he’s been excellent in a transitional side after joining from Borussia Dortmund under Arsene Wenger and, latterly, Unai Emery, representing a consistent thread amidst the tumult around him.

The striker didn’t feature at the Nations Cup after Gabon’s failure to qualify, and his form has dipped in recent weeks, but his enduring class in front of goal makes him a contender.

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