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Eto'o and Toure lead African footballer of year race

Piers Edwards | 16:00 UK time, Saturday, 12 December 2009

For anyone interested in the BBC's African Footballer of 2009 award, Friday's Fifa Club World Cup clash between DR Congo's TP Mazembe and South Korea's Pohang Steelers would have made interesting viewing.

The key question being: does Mazembe captain Tresor Mputu merit his place alongside Didier Drogba, Michael Essien, Samuel Eto'o and Yaya Toure?

The 24-year-old Congolese striker made the shortlist, compiled by Africa-based sports journalists, after playing the lead role as the Lubumbashi club won their first continental crown since 1968. And though he couldn't equal his 2007 African Champions League tally of nine, which sparked a trial at Arsenal, he did score six - including the crucial away goal in the final's first leg against Nigeria's Heartland.
"I promised the team I wouldn't leave before winning a cup," said Mputu after beating Heartland, and now he can pursue a European career he admirably put on hold.
In Abu Dhabi, as a defensively naive Mazembe lost 2-1, Mputu showed flashes of the close control, footballing brain and goalscoring threat that have brought heavy interest. After teeing-up a glorious chance early on, which Mazembe's main striker fluffed, his best moment came when whistling a 30-yarder inches wide of the top corner.
It didn't get better than that, leaving voters to rely upon his Champions League exploits and display at the African Nations Championship (a new tournament for the continent's local players) which the Congolese and Mputu - crowned the best player - won in style.
Although the shortlist's only Africa-based player has achieved all he can, it's hard to vote against a duo who boasts an unprecedented league, cup and Champions League treble with Barcelona: Eto'o and Toure, with the central midfielder making a pretty compelling case.
Toure, having joined Barca in 2007, the 26-year-old Ivorian has become an essential cog in the Catalan team. He played every game of Barca's European triumph, with his zenith coming in the final. With Dani Alves, Eric Abidal and Rafael Marquez all missing, coach Pep Guardiola opted for Toure to plug the heart of defence and despite facing Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney, you wouldn't have known Barca's centre-back was playing out of position.
"He had an unbelievable season, he's a brilliant player and improving all the time," said Ossie Ardiles, who joined Ruud Gullit and Zambian great Kalusha Bwalya, in voting for Toure.
Internationally, the Ivorian was also key - both on and off the pitch. After 19 fans died at an overcrowded Abidjan stadium for the visit of Malawi, Toure led the players' reaction: "This is something very difficult and I want to send a message of solidarity. We have to go as far as we can in this competition for all the people who died." And they've been as good as their word so far.
Yet Toure's case may be undone by Eto'o, whose treble-winning season hit heights aplenty. The wiry striker plundered 30 goals in 36 league games, another six in Europe, as the Indomitable Lion revealed his mental strength - for Barca had wanted to sell him at the start of the 2008/2009 season.

samuel595.jpgEto'o stunned Manchester United after 10 minutes of the 2009 Uefa Champions League final
His most important goal came in Rome, receiving an innocuous-looking pass he twisted-and-turned past Nemanja Vidic before poking home - the defending poor, the execution brilliant. Manchester United never recovered and the Cameroonian basked in becoming only the second man to score in different Champions League finals.
Unceremoniously offloaded to Inter Milan in the summer, Eto'o has started with promise even if Jose Mourinho's game plan is far more functional than Barcelona's. But for such a predatory animal, you wonder whether he will be happy with his slimline diet of chances. Nonetheless, his current strike rate is on course to equal Gabriel Batistuta's first season in Italy.
Eto'o also stood up for Cameroon, especially after being named captain by Paul Le Guen. Previously goalless after two qualifiers, everything then changed - primarily thanks to the new coach. but the skipper showed the way, scoring regularly as the 1990 World Cup quarter-finalists won four must-win matches to reach South Africa.
Eto'o netted the goal that clinched Cameroon's World Cup spot - as did Drogba for the Ivorians. And though the Chelsea man may polarise opinion, he's so talismanic for the Elephants it's hard to think of anyone who embodies their national side more: and six goals in five World Cup qualifiers typified an inspirational captain.
Drogba's 2009 club career started miserably but this was clearly a mental issue for once Guus Hiddink replaced Luiz Felipe Scolari; the powerhouse was reborn as though his magical powers - stolen by Big Phil - had been returned. Drogba's equaliser helped the Dutch master pick up the FA Cup and this season, under his third club manager of the year in Carlo Ancelotti, the Ivorian has been back to his imperious best, scoring at will.
Last ... and perhaps least ... Michael Essien. I'm a big fan but am not convinced he deserves to be either on Fifa's world shortlist nor the BBC's equally prestigious title. Could Seydou Keita, Frederic Kanoute, Mamadou Niang or even Burkina Faso's Moumouni Dagano, who topped Africa's World Cup scoring charts, have been better nominees?
Having missed January and February through injury, Essien's return was - admittedly - highly impressive: hitting the ground running, he scored against Juventus, before his stunning volley was taking Chelsea to Rome until Barcelona's late, late show. The Ghanaian's game is not about goals but his recently improved tally recalls his free-scoring days with Lyon.
Essien was also instrumental for the Black Stars, ensuring they won World Cup qualifiers in Mali and Sudan without Stephen Appiah and Sulley Muntari, and firing the goal that made Ghana the first African country to reach South Africa.
So who's set to follow in the footsteps of Jay-Jay Okocha, El-Hadji Diouf and George Weah? "It can't be Drogba because he didn't play the Champions League final," says Gullit, thinking like a Fifa panelist - yet the BBC's award is decided by fans who may think differently.
For my mind, it will be a straight fight between Eto'o and Toure - and even if I'm wrong, I believe either would be a worthy winner.

You can cast your vote here for BBC African Footballer of 2009.


  • Comment number 1.

    Samuel Eto'o should be crowned 2009 African footballer of the Year... Great accomplishment during 2008/2009 season no DOUBT about that:

    Club level ==> with Barcelona He played a key role in Barcelona winning the treble Best Barcelona goal scorer during that season..

    Country level ==> He helped Cameroon to qualify for the world cup and African Cup of Nations.

  • Comment number 2.

    I don't agree with most of the judgments on each of the players. This is African Player of the year not European player of the year. So the judgments should be re-written focusing on CAF, African champions League and world cup qualifier, not champions league or european leagues. I would vote on players performances and achievements based on CAF, and world cup qualifiers. cheers!!!!

  • Comment number 3.

    There shouldn't even be a discussion about it. Samuel Eto'o by a mile.

  • Comment number 4.

    I still believe Samuel Eto'o should have been crown UEFA footballer of the year or in the worst case scenario, come second to Messi and not fifth.

    I still do not understand why is was not even nominated for FIFA footballer of the year...

    There is without a doubt something subjective about these nominations...

  • Comment number 5.

    @ Teddy Markham - why shouldn't european performances be counted? The award is the BBC African Player of the Year, it doesn't say best player currently playing in Africa. The five candidates are all African and therefore eligible for the award, irrespective of what leagues they play in.

  • Comment number 6.

    Another interesting blog Piers. Its hard to look beyond Eto'o to be honest. Even if Barca were knocked out by Chelsea, i dont think this should have made a difference. The Champions League Final win and goal were merely icing on the cake.

  • Comment number 7.

    Also Yaya Toure has been left out of several of Barcas games this year, so whilst his 2008/09 season was impressive, it hasn't been quite so good this season.

    And to answer your question about Tresor Mputu, no i dont think he merits a place alongside the African European stars. He plays in a far inferior league. The achievements of World class players like Eto'o Toure, Drogba et al far far far outweigh his.

  • Comment number 8.

    Have to go for Eto'o. Although Toure was great last season, Busquets was often preferred to him in central midfield, whereas the likes of Bojan rarely got a look in which speaks volumes, considering Guardiola's feelings towards the Ivorian.

  • Comment number 9.

    of the year, not of the season, for those who are confused.

    Therefore, Didier Drogba.

    For work inside and outside football.

    And as a bitter Chelsea fan, Et'o wouldn't have won the Champs League were it not for the ref.

    (So maybe the ref should split the trophy if he wins it)

  • Comment number 10.

    #8 - Eto'o is from Cameroon, not Côte d'Ivoire.

  • Comment number 11.

    Imagine how good Arsenal would be with Eto'o. Pretenders to favorites in one fell swoop.

  • Comment number 12.

    No question about it. Etoo stands tall.
    All five have had a great year. Chelsea's Essien and Drogba are having a great season . Mputu has been good with TP Mazembe. Toure played his part in Barcelona's achievement. Etoo? Simply phenomenal. Both at club level with Barcelona (Treble including an outstanding 36 goals)and Inter and in national colors with Cameroon (scored 9 goals to qualify Cameroon for the world cup against all odds).

  • Comment number 13.

    The best football player..not the best seems there is a clear preference for strikers in this and all the them FIFA, BBC,World Footballer...European Player of the year.
    Yaya Toure was in my view the best that African football has to offer.. he is occupying a position that requires brain power and an acute understanding of the game, combined with a physically imposing stature and dedication to Club and Country... Yaya gives always the very best and see his imperial performance in the Champion League.. Not a striker but the best caliber footballer of African descent in 2009.
    Eto'o is an excellent striker but sorry he does not do much else.. his ability to help in defense the same way Drogba does is limited.. his professional attitude off the field leaves a lot to be desired, his lack of discipline in the dressing room which infuriated Guardiola is not examplary...

    Drogba was poor in the beginning of 2009 and did not play much for his Country in the early round of the WC qualifications..due to injury for Country and due to Big Phil dislike of his brute power, prefering Anelka's more skillful control of the ball.. fortunately Drogba learnt from that period under Big Phil and technically improved and his technique on the ball is now first class for Chelsea.. but for a large part of 2009.. Drogba was not the very best whatever the reason.. As for Mputu, there are many more deserving football players and i can name many before him...Let's wait and see if he is capable when in Europe if he can hold his own in the top Leagues.. We also saw what happened with Manucho.. The EPL or la Liga are different cats compared to the local african championships

  • Comment number 14.

    This award is not the main one recognised by africans. It is the CAF African Footballer of the year awards, the BBC one is just more or less a sideshow.

    It's like having a BBC World Footballer of the Year or BBC Ballon D'Or. Laughable really

  • Comment number 15.

    Though I'd give it to Eto'o, I really do think that the continent is unfair to the best players on its soil like Tresor Mputu. How can they match the Drogba's playing in Africa? It's unfair comparism. I think a workable format should be drawn up to pick a the best on African soil yearly. That I think is the variation a latter day award like the BBC's should have brought.

  • Comment number 16.

    I cant see how eto'o can win it since joining inter millan he hasnt been on form whilst drogba has already scored 13 goals this season and helpd ivory coast get to the world cup 2010

  • Comment number 17.

    Much as it pains me, Drogba is quite clearly the best centre forward in world football. Therefore it is obvious that he is the best centre forward in Africa. That then leaves him taking on Toure who is an excellent footballer, but you feel that his part in Barcelona's success was important but not crucial. Drogba is critical both to Chelsea and the Ivory coast.

  • Comment number 18.

    Drogba completely outshone Etoo in the key Chelsea v Barcelona games, and could little about the refereeing. Eto'o was excellent, but flattered by the service of Iniesta and Messi - more than Ballack or Malouda ever helped Drogba. I'm a big fan of Eto'o, clearly a more thoughtful man than Drogba, but its hard to look beyond the Chelsea man for African player of the year.

  • Comment number 19.

    The best should be selected between Eto and Drogba,this two guys are the best footballers if i'm to say.

  • Comment number 20.

    Dapsy (#14) rightly mentions that the main award for African footballers is the one handed out by the Confederation of African Football (Caf), not the BBC, but what makes the latter different - and interesting - is that it is decided by the public. So in years gone by, the BBC and Caf winners have seldom tallied - only in 1992 (Abedi Pele), 1995 (George Weah), 1999 (Nwankwo Kanu), 2000 (Patrick Mboma) and 2002 (El Hadji Diouf). More recently, the winners have contrasted greatly: Emmanuel Adebayor given the trophy by Caf last year while BBC pollsters opted for the talented Mohamed Aboutreika, of Egypt and Al Ahly, who has shunned a career in Europe thanks to being amply rewarded at home. A few years earlier, Mohamed Barakat (also of Egypt and Al Ahly) triumphed, so Teddy (#2) I hope you'll agree that Africa-based exploits have not been ignored in the past.

    For what it's worth, let's not forget that the Caf award's credibility was seriously compromised when Frederic Kanoute was awarded the 2007 trophy - for Didier Drogba later claimed he was the actual winner, yet was not crowned Africa's best for he did not attend the awards ceremony (in Togo). Although Caf originally denied the claim, it later issued a statement: "Any player who is absent at its award ceremony will not be taken into consideration in placements of African footballer of the year." This seems rather draconian and in response, Drogba said he no longer wished to be considered for the title - even though he is on this year’s Caf shortlist (identical to the BBC’s save for Seydou Keita replacing Tresor Mputu). And his reasoning was understandable for Drogba ignored the awards ceremony as he was preparing for a 2008 Nations Cup quarter-final in Ghana two days later, which he deemed more important.

    That said, if anyone wants to question the BBC's award, they might join me in wondering how three-time Caf African Footballer of the Year Samuel Eto'o - despite all his achievements - has never won the trophy!

    Just finally, Dawlish (#13), you say there are many players who should be ahead of Mputu and it would be great to know who they might be. Obviously, the shortlist is the shortlist but since this blog is discussing Africa's best footballer of 2009 - it would be interesting to know the players people believe should on the list but aren‘t…

  • Comment number 21.

    Samuel Eto'o is classic, he is legendary and he is simmply the best of the present generation of African footballers.

  • Comment number 22.

    Eto,o is the man for the award.All these players had a great year especially Etoo and Yaya. BUT ETOO STANDS OUT.Look at his goals for Barca,the trophees,the champions league finals goal.All these in a tense environment where he is hated by Guardiola.His goals for Cameroon for World cup qualifiers,His current preformance in Inter playing as a second striker.
    He is a legend,he deserves it.Etooo

  • Comment number 23.

    As far as i'm concern, Africa does not have a player for this year. None of them is consistent

  • Comment number 24.

    Eddy, never heard of this Mputu guy. Anyway, I find it patronizing for BBC to throw a lavish party for itself under the pretext of doing it for the “third world”. (Haven't we heard it many a time before? Like the GM crop and some other research -- BTW, Ethiopia is still starving --: It is ALWAYS for Africa, to get government grants and subsidies or to justify spending tax payers money, and then nothing more is heard of these pretend do-gooders).

    Further, it seems that colonial mentality is still rife in the BBC. What a load of rubbish – if you don't mind me saying so. Is this what we pay 'BBC tax' for? Eddy, count me out; I am not going to take any interest in the “a-day-out” for the BBC. I have been to one of these events in the past and whilst I paid for my drinks and for the misers – who blamed their heavy mortgage -- on my table, I saw others paying with cards that I could only describe as belonging to their organizations: some call it perks – whatever that means.

  • Comment number 25.

    Piers Edwards@20

    Eddy, if you ask me about CAF award, I would say that NO African playing outside Africa should be shortlisted for the award. The award should be used to promote local talents, that is to say, only those who play on the continent should be shortlisted.

    European football influence is contaminating the African style of football. And every time I re-watch the Nigerian U17 team in the recent FIFA U17 -- all home grown players--, I am in heaven: Just brilliant! It is a must buy videos. And if I believed in heaven, I would have said that how the Nigerian U17 played is how football is played in heavens.

    Sadly, EPL clubs will snap up these young lads and teach them the mantras: “run-run-run”, “put-in-crosses” or the defenders to: "back off, back off, into the box when you see a striker fast approaching”. These boys would be made into Mikel Obi-s – stripped of their talents!

  • Comment number 26.


    Sometimes, I tend to believe that the BBC African Players of the Year Award is won, more on merit than CAF African Player of the Year Award.This is because the BBC award is open to everybody while the CAF award is open to a few.

    What makes me question the CAF award is that Okocha, at the time he was clearly the best African footballer never won the award. Rather, he was ignored by CAF selcetors to favour CAF President, Issa Hayoutu. For this same reason, as with Drogba, Okocha lost interest in the CAF award and did not wish to be considered anymore.

    It is confusing to vote, considering Drogba's form and Eto intelligence. But, I would go for Drobga, as the Barca defense could not cope with his power and should have won the Champions league, if it was not for the conspiracy by UEFA against two English Finals. On the other hand, Eto hardly disturbed the Chelsea defense. So for me, I will vote for Drobga. He is a better goal scorer and Eto, a better footballer.

    It is like comparing Torres to Drogba, until the battle between Liverpool and Chelsea, where Drogba was unplayable and a menace to Liverpool defense while Torres went to sleep on the big stage to settle the score.

    Unfortunately, midfielders would have to do much much better, compared to an ordinary attacker, to be considered where an ordinary attacker is considered. This is because football is all about goals. An example is when Rasheed Yekini won the CAF African Player of the Year when there were better players in the Nigerian team (such as Siasia, Oliseh, Finidi and Okocha). Infact, without Finidi, Yekini was a flop, because Finidi fed Yekini with passes that made it easy for him to score. Drogba is a modern Yekini.

    So for footballs prefence for attackers, I pity Yaya Toure.

  • Comment number 27.

    Is there some bias here, or have I missed something? Where is North Africa in this African Player poll??? (Hint: Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, and, yes, even egypt, are in Africa-NOT the middel east!

    You've left out Algeria's players-all of whom are headed to both the CAN and the World Cup.

    Since you've left them out, I am submitting a write-in vote: Lounes Gaouaoui as Goalkeeper of the Year. (Second choice: Karim Matmour, the Fennecs' captain.)

  • Comment number 28.

    @ 27. People tend to forget they are in Africa, and do think they are in middle east. Yoy see why Al Haly in Dubai ws confused for Egypt in the other blog. Well, the North Africans have won BBC African Players award. The Egyptian did recently. But this year, none of them stand a chance compared to the Drogba's, Eto's, Essien's , Yaya Toure's.

  • Comment number 29.

    #25 - while I disagree with you that no African outside of Africa should win the award, I wholeheartedly agree with your views on the Nigerian U17 team. They were fantastic ... talented youngsters playing the game without the usual straitjacket of European tactics, and desperately unlucky to lose the final (against the Swiss). It's worth recalling that the Nigerian side that won the 1996 Olympics - unexpectedly seeing off Brazil in the semis, then Argentina in the final - were very similar, with key men like Kanu, Okocha, Amokachi, Amuneke, Babangida and Ikpeba playing with wonderful freedom and considerable flair. It was incredibly refreshing to watch, which is why it's still one of my favourite football memories.

  • Comment number 30.

    samuel eto;o deserve this award more than every player that is in this contest. he even deserve to be named both uefa and fifa player of the year.but people are just being intellectually captured by the shrine of formalism and worst of all fanatical.i will advise bbc to have a panel that will always sit and come out with merit since this voting system is basically nepotic and tribalistic. this will create a situation where meritocracy will give way to mediocrity.i will still insist and advice you form a panel of experts for the purpose of this award than allowing it to fanatics.whose votes will never amount to a meritorious opinion.

  • Comment number 31.

    We have every reason to compensate this golden boy this year. He merited a place at the world classification.
    Eto'o is the best African player of the year no doubts.
    He deserves it more than any one in the contest.
    Do not let this boy down.

  • Comment number 32.

    Jihno, you know a lot about football. I have been thinking about this for a long time now. Imagine Eto'o at the centre of the attack line with such talented players like Fabregas, Song and Van Persie. I don't know why he went to a team like Inter. Everybody there wants to score and be a hero, there is no real midfield talent for him to be able to score lots of goals plus Milito wants to be the main man. Mr. Edwards, I join you in wondering why Samuel Eto'o despite all his achievements (infact the best by any African player; Weah maybe.) Mr. Fish UEFA is the second most competitive tournament after the famous World cup. For you to be the best scorer of a team that wins any of these competitions and to score in the finals and help your team win the competition is priceless. Most of those who do that end up being FIFA players of the year. Eto'o hasn't been lucky.

    Eto'o is simply the best. Common slow pokes.

  • Comment number 33.

    Is Eto better than Essien?

  • Comment number 34.

    Is Eto better than Kolo Toure?

  • Comment number 35.

    Though I like Eto and I think he is good. But to say he is better than Drogba, Essien or Kolo Toure will e unfair to these players.

    Solution: Share the award into four and let each player hold the title for 3 months, and by the end of the year, Eto, Drogba, Kolo Toure and Essien would have reigned as African best in the year 2009/10

  • Comment number 36.

    the world cup in south africa will definitely be the opportunity for the best talents on the continent to showcase. Etoo, Drogba, Essien and even unknown names. Who expected anything from Cameroon in Italy 1990. South Africa 2010 could just bring up unknown african stars too. for more on cameroon sports

  • Comment number 37.

    hi Edwards,sometimes i wonder and suspect that the BBC footballer of the year award was pre-meditated to favour certain regions and countries,come to think of it the only African player to have featured in the FIFA top 3 in modern football is Samuel Etoo but worst still he has never won this BBC award.we may not like him but one thing is clear even among his rivals they nkow he is the best ever player of modern african football,awards should be based on achievements not tribalitic,nepotic or fanatic reasons,just take a pen and a paper and count his achievements its just extraordinary,yet you guys fail to acknowledge it,i think its a shame to BBC and voters not to recognise a true African heroe,he has just won another triple with inter milan again,you guys should be objective,when he started winning with Barcelona people said it was thanks to Ronaldinho,this guy left,after Thierry henry came people said Etoo will be on the bench we all nkow what happened,he keeps on fighting and winning trophies,where is ronaldinho and henry today,Drogba is super Talented but why is it that Each time he plays against Etoo in the bigger stage like the ECL he always takes useless cards while Etoo scores,to me this shows the mentality of the two players,Etoo is a natural fighter and winner he has confidence in himself,he was not at his best this season with inter milan but people should nkow he is a human beeing not a robot,there are times we are all low,let the world watch out for this lion boy come WOZA 2010 and the BBC should re-think about this award criteria,because it is biase and not fair

  • Comment number 38.

    The Awards are a good thing I guess - I'm not surprised that it falls to the BBC to make such awards given teh organisation in some African countries I've been to!

    Hoping that Eto'o can lead Cameroon to a glorious World Cup - at least a team or two qualifying from the group stages would be good, but that may be wishful thinking...


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