Nigerian striker Victor Osimhen is among the nominees for the 2023 Confederation of African Football (CAF) Men’s Player of the Year award.
Osimhen is one of the 30 players nominated for the African Footballer of the Year award. Alongside the Napoli attacker, other prominent nominees for the award include Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah, Al Ahli’s Riyad Mahrez, Al-Nassr’s Sadio Mane, Al Hilal’s Yassine Bounou, and Paris Saint-Germain’s Achraf Hakimi.
Osimhen’s impressive performance includes scoring 26 goals in 32 appearances, contributing to Napoli’s Serie A title win for the first time in 33 years last season. He also clinched the Golden Boot as Serie A’s top scorer and netted five goals in six UEFA Champions League matches for Napoli.
However, the 24-year-old missed the last Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) hosted by Cameroon due to injury. He was also absent from the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, won by Lionel Messi-led Argentina, as Nigeria failed to qualify for the tournament after losing to West African rival Ghana during the qualification series.
Notably, Osimhen secured the 8th position in the final Ballon d’Or top 30 rankings for this year.
The former Lille attacker faces stiff competition from the likes of Mahrez, Mane, Bounou, Hakimi, and Salah for the CAF award. It’s worth mentioning that Mahrez achieved a treble with Manchester City, winning the Premier League, FA Cup, and UEFA Champions League before moving to Al Ahli in the summer. On the other hand, Mane led Senegal to victory in the previous edition of AFCON in Cameroon and secured the Bundesliga title with Bayern Munich, although he didn’t participate in the World Cup.
Similarly, Bounou showcased an outstanding performance for Morocco at the World Cup in Qatar, leading the team to the semi-final stage. He also secured the UEFA Europa League title with Sevilla before his move to Saudi Arabian giants Al Hilal in the summer. Bounou achieved the 13th position in the final Ballon d’Or top 30 ranking for this year.
Also, Hakimi clinched the French Ligue 1 title with Paris Saint-Germain and guided Morocco to the semi-final stage of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Salah had a decent 2022-23 campaign, leading Liverpool to qualify for the Europa League after finishing outside the Premier League top four. Salah finished 11th in the final Ballon d’Or top 30 ranking for this year.
Benco news reports that Osimhen is aspiring to become the first Nigerian to win the CAF award since Arsenal legend Nwankwo Kanu claimed the prize in 1999.
Notable ex-internationals like John Obi Mikel (second position) and Vincent Enyeama (third position) came close to winning the African Footballer of the Year award in 2013 and 2014, respectively, but both were surpassed by former Manchester City midfielder, Yaya Toure.
The winner of the 2023 African Footballer of the Year award will be announced in Marrakech, Morocco, on December 11.
Osimhen has already expressed confidence in his prospects of being named Africa’s best player for 2023.
“It [would] mean a lot, a whole lot to me [to win the CAF African Footballer of the Year award],” Osimhen recently said.
“I remember in 2015, when I won the [CAF] Youth Player of Year [award], you know I saw the winner [Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang] walk up to the podium to receive [CAF African Footballer of the Year award].
“Since then, for me, it has become a dream to try to be there and win something as prestigious as that,” he said.
However, there are odds against Osimhen becoming the first Nigerian to win African Footballer of the Year since 1999.
“It would not be easy for Osimhen to win the CAF African footballer of the year award this year because of some strong contenders like Bounou, Mane, Mahrez, and even Hakimi,” Stanley Smart, a sports analyst, told DAILY POST on Monday.
“First and foremost, he missed the AFCON in Cameroon as a result of injury he sustained prior to the competition. He also missed the World Cup in Qatar due to Super Eagles’ failure to make it to the tournament.
However, he won the top scorer award in the Serie A after leading Napoli to win the Scudetto. He also did well in the Champions League and finished in the Ballon d’Or [final ranking] top ten.”
When asked if Osimhen deserves to win the CAF award this year ahead of other nominees, Smart added, “I am not saying that Osimhen doesn’t deserve to win the award.
“But if you look at the other players I mentioned earlier, they also had a fantastic [2022/23] season. They all deserve the award just as Osimhen.
Take Bounou, for example, he led Morocco to the semi-final stage of the World Cup. He did exceptionally well during the competition and also won the Europa League with Sevilla, saving two penalties.
“He also participated in the last AFCON. But my only reservation for Bounou is that he is a goalkeeper. I cannot remember the last time a goalkeeper won the African Footballer of the Year award. I know Enyeama finished in third position behind Toure in 2014. Mane also won the award last year ahead of former Chelsea goalkeeper Mendy, who finished in third position behind Salah (second position).
Mane is another strong contender. He won the AFCON, Bundesliga with Bayern Munich, but unfortunately, he did not participate at the World Cup due to injury. He was not included in the final Ballon d’Or top 20 power ranking.
“Just like Mane, Mahrez was not named in the Ballon d’Or power ranking for this year. But he won the Champions League, Premier League and FA Cup with Manchester City last season. He also participated at the last AFCON but his country failed to qualify for the World Cup.
“Having said all these, at the end of the day, the winner will be decided by the highest votes.”
When asked to rate his top five for the award, Smart simply said: “Mahrez, Bounou, Hakimi, Mane and Osimhen.