Super Eagles’ Captain, John Obi Mikel (left), celebrating with his teammates after leading Nigeria to a 3-1 defeat of Algeria in a Russia 2018 World Cup qualifier played in Uyo. PHOTO: AFP.
• I didn’t expect any Nigerian player to be among them, says Ezeogu
Although the likes of Alex Iwobi and Kelechi Iheanacho made the bench for the Confederation of African Football (CAF) Africa’s best team for 2016, but no Nigerian is in the starting XI.
Manchester City forward Iheanacho admittedly faced stern competition for a place up front, with three forwards chosen Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Borussia Dortmund, Liverpool’s Sadio Mane and Riyad Mahrez, who helped Leicester City win the title in England. The troika were also finalists for the 2016 CAF African Footballer of the Year award.
Arsenal’s Iwobi lost out on a place in midfield to three players based in Africa: Khama Billiat and Keegan Dolly of South African club Mamelodi Sundowns and Rainford Kalaba of TP Mazembe (DR Congo).
Sundowns, who won the CAF Champions League, had a third player in the starting XI – Ugandan keeper Denis Onyango.
Meanwhile, former international, Emeka Ezeogu, has given approval on the Glo-CAF award held at the weekend in Abuja, where no Nigerian player was listed among the best 11 players on the continent.
Algeria’s Riyad Mahrez of Leicester City was picked over Gabon’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Borussia Dortmund and Senegalese Sadio Mane of Liverpool, to emerge the 2016 African Footballer of the Year. Alex Iwobi of Arsenal and Kelechi Iheanacho of Manchester City, were only considered good enough to be on the substitute bench for CAF’s team.
Speaking with The Guardian yesterday, Ezeogu said he was not surprised that no Nigerian player made it to top CAF’s best 11 players. According to him, the players did not perform well enough to be shortlisted among the best players in the year under review.
“Are you surprised that none of our players made it to the top best 11 on the continent? The reason is simple: Our players do no longer possess the type of quality players that this nation is noted for in the past. They are no longer performing at the highest level. We need players who are consistent on the field like what Victor Moses is currently doing now at Chelsea FC.
“That performance has to be repeated week in, week out. Not the one you perform marvellously this week, next week and then it dwindles down in the next four to five weeks; what one can consider to be a sort of a below par performance. Look at Mahrez, his performance was consistent throughout last year at Leicester City and he was the main man there.
“There is no way you can give that award to another person except him. He was pivotal to making Leicester City champions of the English Premier League last season. So he deserved to be African Footballer of the Year. If we want any Nigerian player to be mentioned along side these great players in Africa, then he has to performed optimally, consistently and pretty good,” he said.