Not many things can compare to watching football and reading about it during the holiday period. January is the perfect time to take another look at the past year and remember remarkable moments and remarkable people. Today we bring you the list of the finest African players of 2015.
11. Robert Kidiaba T.P Mazembe, D.R Congo
Robert Kidiaba is one of the most peculiar players on this list, for a number of reasons. He is the only goalkeeper and the only Africa-based player. At the age of 39, he is by far the oldest of the bunch, too. Most remembered for his unique goal celebrations, Kidiaba enjoyed great success at both club and international level. TP Mazembe won their fifth CAF Champions League title, while DR Congo’s third place at the Africa Cup of Nations is their greatest achievement since 1998.
10. Odion Ighalo Watford, Nigeria
The difference in playing styles in European leagues does have an impact, but rarely on such scale as with Odion Ighalo. The Nigerian striker managed only 12 goals in four and a half years playing in Italy and Spain, before moving to Watford. After adapting to the English Championship, he turned into a proper goal machine. Back in January, Odion scored seven goals in three consecutive matches, announcing the huge role he would play in the Hornets’ promotion campaign. What is even more remarkable is that he then took his fantastic streak to a higher level, adding another 13 Premier League goals to the 16 he scored from January to May.
9. Gervinho Rome, Cote d’Ivoire
Once an Arsenal misfit, Gervais Lombe Yao Kouassi quickly adapted to Roma’s style of play and became one of Rudy Garcia’s most potent weapons in La Lupa’s ultimately unsuccessful quest for the Italian title. His goals were badly missed in the season’s run in, but they were back once the new season kicked off. Gervinho’s moment of glory was set in Equatorial Guinea, where the Ivory Coast finally managed to win the Africa Cup of Nations after nearly a quarter of a century. It didn’t start well, as Gervinho was sent off in a group match and Les Elephants needed a late, late goal to get through ‘the group of death’. Once in the quarters, they could count on Gervinho once more and he delivered, scoring in consecutive matches.
8. Medhi Benatia Bayern Munich, Morocco
Once Gervinho’s teammate at Roma, Benatia let his ambition cloud over his common sense. As soon as he signed for Bayern, it was clear that the move was made out of great necessity, with so many injured defenders at the Säbener Strasse club. Even though his playing time took a significant blow once the stars of the Bavarian defense regained health, he never disappointed when on the pitch, helping Bayern win the domestic double. Once courted by other top European clubs, Benatia might leave Munich soon in search of regular football.
7. Sadio Mané Southampton, Senegal
Back in his Salzburg days, Sadio Mané was the biggest star of the smaller European leagues. Still, he was not well-known in England before he moved to Southampton. Some doubted him because his lack of height, others were unsure of what his best position was. Now, Mane is widely respected by both club legends and top rivals, and his alleged move to Manchester United is all over the papers yet again. And what better way to stamp authority at the end of your debut Premier league season then by breaking a two decade-long record for fastest hat-trick. That May afternoon, Aston Villa was sunk by three Mané goals in 176 seconds. Over the course of 2015, the Senegalese player scored 14 goals and assisted on further a six for both club and country.
6. Andre Ayew Swansea City, Ghana
His father, Abedi Pele, was Africa’s best in his own day. From him Andre inherited talent and a special relationship with Olympique Marseille. His last season at the Stade Velodrome started brightly, but then collapsed. His move to the Premier League was unexpected, as he chose Swansea over bigger clubs, impressed by their style on and off the field. His early form, especially the demolition of Manchester United, suggested he might go on to be one of the league’s foremost players, but it dipped as winter approached. Still, his seven goals stand as a testament to a fine year. His own Black Stars gave him bittersweet moments. Ghana managed to make it to the Africa Cup of Nations final, but then suffered heartbreak on penalties.
5. Yacine Brahimi Porto, Algeria
The emergence of a wonderful Algerian side that lit up last year’s World Cup brought Brahimi into the spotlight. Africa’s foremost dribbler helped Porto get to Champions League quarterfinals, scoring and assisting freely along the way. Algeria would also be stopped at the quarterfinal stage, after losing to the Ivory Coast. This season promises to bring yet another three-way race in Portugal, with Yacine being one of the Dragons’ primary weapons.
4. Mohamed Salah Roma, Egypt
Salah’s move to Chelsea was a premature one, but his subsequent loan to Fiorentina proved to be a huge hit. In the Serie A there was no stopping the Egyptian, who instantly drew attention from a number of sides. It nearly ended in disaster, when the time came for him to find a new permanent home near the end of the season. He ended up opting for Roma, where he is surrounded by some of Africa’s top players. Even though the club from the capital didn’t seize the opportunity provided by Juve’s uncertain start, Salah was one of those who didn’t disappoint. Twelve goals in 2015 marked by two club moves is a remarkable achievement.
3. Riyad Mahrez Leicester City, Algeria
Let’s be honest, is there a single person on the planet who thought Mahrez would be the frontrunner in the race for the Premier League’s player of the season? The Algerian winger took the league by storm and has helped Leicester redefine the term “overachievement”. The Foxes, who were predicted to be struggling for survival, still have a decent shot at the league title. Unlike the other two remarkable players this season – Jamie Vardy, who scores goals, and Mesut Ozil, who provides the assists – Mahrez’s assault on the charts is two-pronged: he is currently third both in goals (13) and assists (7). No wonder Riyad leads the league in rating, according to whoscored.com.
2. Yaya Toure Man City, Cote d’Ivoire
Back in January 2015, the Premier League juggernaut finally put his hands on the Holy Grail, by winning the Africa Cup of Nations. For a long time, the Ivorians were favorites to win it, but by the time they finally made it, most of their golden generation had already withdrawn from the team. Back at Man City, Yaya was not quite the dominant force he used to be (9 goals and 6 assists in all competitions), but he is still one of the key members of the team, and his absence still leaves his team heavily exposed.
1. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang Borussia Dortmund, Gabon
It is really hard to upstage Yaya in his ACN-winning year, but the Gabonese Batman was simply magnificent throughout 2015. Auba was instrumental in Dortmund’s ascent from the bottom of the Bundesliga to the Europa League spot that made Klopp’s exit a bit more bearable, but that was only a glimpse of what would come. Once Thomas Tuchel took the reins and turned the counter-attacking machine into free-flowing mode, Pierre stole the show. Not only did he make history by scoring in eight consecutive games to start off the season, but his unselfishness helped switch his teammates, most notably Mkhitaryan, back into winning mode. Twenty-eight goals in five months playing for one of the world’s most prestigious clubs is enough to guarantee Aubameyang top position on our list.
Agree with our list? Has anyone else merited a place on it? Have your say in our comment section here or on Facebook!