The BBC African Player of the Year Award will be announced later this year after a public vote. The shortlist is up and there are a few familiar names (Andre Ayew, Yaya Toure and Yacine Brahimi). But how do they measure up against one of the greatest players to win the trophy twice?
In 2004, Jay-Jay Okocha won the award for the second time after excelling at the African Cup of Nations and leading Bolton to their highest Premier League finish (at the time).
He has been the standard bearer for African technique and is ubiquitous when browsing classic clips of football tricks. This list looks at the next 10 winners of the award (2005-2014) and assesses if any of Africa’s finest has come close to challenging Okocha in skills and football trickery.
Nicknamed ‘The Mercurial’, he’s considered to be one of the finest Egyptian players ever. His work ethic and ability to pressurise defences disrupted the early 2000s dominance of Zamalek SC in the Egyptian league and made Al Ahly a powerhouse once again. However, he was not one for the unnecessary showman-like tricks and so doesn’t score high on the Okocha scale.
It’s no surprise that Michael Essien’s ascent coincided with the success of both club and country in the mid 2000s. His all-action style and at times surprising composure made him one of the best players in the world at the time. But when your nickname is ‘The Bison’ you are probably not impressing people with an array of tricks. He had his moments but he was in the team for another reason entirely.
In his day, Emmanuel Adebayor was a player of considerable talent that defenders could not handle. With his speed, size and ability to hold the ball up, he could work as a lone target man or in a tandem. Unfortunately as time passed those days became few and far between which was a shame because he had some special moments.
Aboutrika is another player that experienced great success with Al-Ahly. Moreover, he was one of the exceptional players in their African Nations success in 2008.
Unlike his namesake retired Egyptian legend Mohamed Barakat, his game was full of step-overs, shoulder faints and shuffles.
Didier Drogba was often compared to 2007’s winner, due to their physical talents and ability to lead attacks. And, like Adebayor, his ability to beat a player with a sublime piece of skill is often ignored.
Gyan chose to reap the benefit of all the petrol dollars available in the Middle East at the grand old age of… 26 but beforehand he was a dangerous player in the French and English leagues. Fans across the countries enjoyed his dance-filled celebrations and ability to twist the blood of opposing defenders.
When your dad is one of the greatest players in the history of the continent, you better be a serious player. Andre and his brother both came to lower-table Premier League teams this summer and Andre has especially made quite an impression. If he can continue to throw out a few cheeky back-flicks he is sure to have a growing fan base.
Somehow Zambia managed to win the 2012 African Nations after beating West African powerhouses Ivory Coast and Ghana in the semis. Their success was built on a strong defence after keeping three consecutive clean sheets in the knockout stages but Katongo received accolades after finishing as one of the joint top scorers in the competition.
The journeyman has a special goal scoring celebration à la Obafemi Martins, but his game is not quite as enjoyable.
A couple of years ago people realised that Yaya was more than a stereotypical athletic midfielder and actually had a couple of moves on the pitch. Not only could he score from a different area code and control the passing of his team, he could also embarrass an opponent with a trick or two.
I had to save the best till last. Algeria was one of the surprise teams of last year’s World Cup after qualifying from their group and only narrowly getting beaten by Germany in the second round. The team had a number of unfamiliar creative talents but names like Riyad Mahrez and Sofiane Feghouli are now more commonly known. However, the biggest name is probably the Porto star Brahimi who has more tricks than he can handle.