Johannesburg (AFP) – Hot favourite Riyad Mahrez of Algeria was among 30 nominees named Saturday for the 2016 African Player of the Year football award.
The winger, who is equally efficient at scoring and creating goals, was a key figure for sensational 2015-2016 English Premier League (EPL) title winners Leicester City.
His efforts were acknowledged by fellow professionals in the most watched domestic football league in the world when they voted him EPL Players’ Player of the Year.
Mahrez has been equally impressive for Algeria, who have been consistently among the top ranked African football nations for several years.
So good has been his form on the right side of midfield that long-time Algerian football icon Sofiane Feghouli cannot always made the starting line-up for the Desert Foxes.
It would be a shock if Mahrez, who joined Leicester two years ago from French outfit Le Havre, is not named African Player of the Year in Abuja on January 5.
The Algerian is one of three Leicester stars in the running for the top African football individual award — the others are compatriot and striker Islam Slimani and Nigeria winger Ahmed Musa.
EPL footballers dominate the 30-star list with 12 included, three come from the Italian Serie A, two each from the Spanish La Liga and French Ligue 1 and one from the German Bundesliga.
CAF media, development and technical committee members, journalists and TV consultants and national coaches or national technical directors are involved in the selection process.
The lone nominee from the Bundesliga, Gabon and Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, was a controversial 2015 winner.
Ivory Coast and Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure, who was seeking a record-extending fifth consecutive award, publicly criticised the choice of the Gabon goal-poacher.
Toure dismissed the outstanding form of Aubameyang for Dortmund in the Bundesliga and the Europa League, saying 2015 Africa Cup of Nations performances should have been prioritised.
He was part of the Ivory Coast team that won the African showpiece for the first time in 23 years, ending a decade of under-achievement by a self-styled ‘golden generation’.
Toure has been sidelined amid a war of words between his agent and new Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola and was not nominated.
Three Ivorians made the list — veteran winger Gervinho, centre-back Eric Bailly and controversial Paris Saint-Germain right-back Serge Aurier.
The defender is being investigated by world body FIFA for making a throat-slitting gesture after creating a goal for Ivory Coast in a World Cup victory over Mali last weekend.
But Mali coach Alain Giresse has hailed Aurier, saying he “saved the life” of opponent Moussa Doumbia by preventing him swallowing his tongue after being knocked unconscious.
Tanzania striker Mbwana Samatta, winner of the 2015 Africa-based Player of the Year award, is not among the nominees for that category as he now plays in Belgium.
Among those who could succeed him are Uganda goalkeeper Dennis Onyango and Zimbabwe striker Khama Billiat from CAF Champions League finalists Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa.
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