Liverpool forwards Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, and Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, are the three finalists for the African footballer of the year award in a repeat of last year’s shortlist.
The winner of the prestigious award will be announced on January 8 in Dakar, Senegal.
Egyptian international Salah is the current holder of the award after his goals played a large part in helping Liverpool reach the Champions League final in 2018.
Mane of Senegal finished ahead last time of Aubameyang, who was then with Borussia Dortmund.
This is the fifth straight nomination for Aubameyang, who won in 2015.
Mane, who was third in 2016, is looking to becoming the first Senegalese winner of the trophy since forward El-Hadji Diouf took the 2002 award.
This year’s nominations may eventually prove to be the most straightforward in recent history if the statistics of the three players in 2018 are taken into consideration.
During the 2017-18 season, Salah scored 43 goals across all competitions, surpassing Roger Hunt’s tally of 42, and making him Liverpool’s second-highest goalscorer in a single season, behind Ian Rush.
He had previously also broken the club’s record for the Premier League era, surpassing Robbie Fowler’s total of 36 goals set in the 1995–96 campaign, and Fernando Torres’ record of 33 for the most goals by a Liverpool player in a debut season.
He would then become the Premier League’s all-time goalscorer for a 38 game season, scoring 32 goals on his way to winning the Premier League Golden Boot for the 2017-18 season.
On 30 August 2018, Salah was named on the three-man shortlist for the UEFA Men’s Player of the Year, coming in third place, and was also included on the three-man shortlist for the UEFA Forward of the Season, coming in second place.
On 3 September he was named on the three-man shortlist for the Best FIFA Men’s Player, finishing third.
He has been in devastating form in the 2018-19 season with 13 goals in 20 Premier League appearances.
Will the dynamic Egyptian retain the award he won last year?
The odds are definitely in his favour.
Mane was in very good form during the 2017-18 season for Liverpool when he scored 10 goals in 29 Premier League appearances despite being overshadowed by the devastating exploits of his teammate, Salah.
He has started the 2018-19 season in the same vein by scoring eight goals in 19 matches so far.
His chances at winning the coveted title of the African footballer of the year may not be too strong especially when considering the statistics of his challengers which brings me to the final player in the top three.
At the international level, Aubameyang has played 58 matches for the Gabon national team since his debut in 2009, scoring 24 goals.
He represented his country in three Africa Cup of Nations tournaments, as well as the 2012 Summer Olympics.
For his performances at the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations, Aubameyang was named CAF’s African Footballer of the Year, becoming the first Gabonese player to win the award.
On 31 January 2018, Aubameyang signed for Premier League club, Arsenal, for a club record fee, reported to be £56 million and he went on to score 10 goals in 13 Premier League appearances despite playing only half of the season in a new league.
He has continued his blistering form in the 2018-19 season with 14 goals in 21 Premier League appearances so far.
Is the Gabonese going to win the title for a second time?
The footballing world waits with bated anticipation for the awards ceremony in Dakar, Senegal tomorrow.