BY Nurudeen Obalola:
The best African footballer in 2014 will be crowned tonight at the GLO/CAF awards with Nigeria’s Vincent Enyeama, Cote d’Ivoire’s Yaya Toure and Gabon’s Pierre Emerick Aubameyang in contention.
Enyeama has already come close for 2014 honours, finishing a close second to Algeria’s Yacine Brahimi in the BBC African Player of the Year vote.
The Super Eagles captain has been backed by many prominent compatriots to win the award, given his sometimes heroic performances in 2014 for Lille and Nigeria.
Playing in front of no-too-solid defences, especially the Super Eagles rearguard, Enyeama still pulled off spectacular saves to keeps his teams competing.
Nigeria’s qualification for the second round of the 2014 FIFA World Cup was largely down to Enyeama as he kept two clean sheets against Iran and Bosnia in the two games which gave the Eagles the four points that took them over the line.
The only blot in Enyeama’s outstanding year was the Eagles’ failure to qualify for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations, although he hardly put a foot wrong in the qualifiers as his colleagues wobbled and fumbled.
He was largely instrumental in Lille’s relative success last season, at one point setting a consecutive clean sheet record. He eventually ended the calendar year with a remarkable 27 clean sheets from 56 appearances, conceding just 43 goals.
The former Enyimba star’s heroics have not gone unrewarded, as influential French publication L’Equipe named him the best goalkeeper in Ligue 1 for 2014.
Enyeama will be looking to add to that honour tonight as he seeks to become the first goalkeeper to be named African Footballer of the Year since CAF started organizing the awards in 1993.
Holder Yaya is the slight favourite to win the award and become the first player in history to be named African Footballer of the Year four years in a row. He won the award in 2011, 2012 and 2013.
The Manchester City star, who was surprisingly not in the final shortlist for the BBC award, had a solid 2014, playing a pivotal role as the club won the English Premier League.
He played 53 matches for City in 2014 and scored 27 goals, stunning figures for a midfielder. He added 10 assists for City, while also scoring four goals in 13 games for the Elephants.
Yaya however had a disappointing World Cup as he and the Elephants crashed out in the first round. But they bounced back by qualifying for AFCON from a very tough group.
Aubameyang is the shock name in the final shortlist. Although the Gabon star had a brilliant 2013/2014 season with Borussia Dortmund, with his goals leading them to a second-place finish in the Bundesliga, his emergence as a candidate for Africa’s top individual award still came as a huge shock.
It would be an even bigger shock if he were to win, especially as Dortmund had a horrible second half of the year.
Aubameyang played 49 games for Dortmund in 2014, scoring 18 goals and making seven assists.