Top 20 African Footballers of 2011

Allan JiangTransfers CorrespondentDecember 17, 2011

Top 20 African Footballers of 2011

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    Pelé may have wrongly predicted an African nation would win a FIFA World Cup by 2000 but he wasn't wrong in foreshadowing the growth of African football.   

    Omam-Biyik's bundled goal against then-reigning World Cup champions Argentina.

    Papa Bouba Diop sending Fabien Barthez, his then-reigning World Cup champion teammates and the entire French nation into a state of melancholy.

    Ghana's fairy tale run in South Africa. 

    All this points to one conclusion—African football is on the rise. 

    Here are the top 20 African footballers of 2011. 

Newcastle United: Cheick Tioté

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    Position: Defensive midfielder
    Age: 25
    Nationality: Ivorian

    Cheick Tioté's 2011 highlight was scoring that dramatic equaliser in the pulsating 4-4 draw against Arsenal. 

    Tioté's strength is his tenacity and hunger to enforce in midfield, however, it is also his weakness.

    Alan Pardew has contemplating about resting Tioté to avoid the Ivorian missing out important games due to suspensions. 

Olympiacos: Rafik Djebbour

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    Position: Centre forward
    Age: 27
    Nationality: Algerian

    It seems Rafik Djebbour has put his tumultuous period at AEK Athens behind him. 

    He had been involved in a bust-up with the manager and was involved in a brawl with his teammate. 

    Since moving to Olympiacos, Djebbour has looked like the definition of class. 

    10 goals in 16 games in 2011. 

    He should test himself at Ligue 1 because he didn't cut it when he was a youngster and maybe he'll cut it now as an established professional. 

Blackburn Rovers: Yakubu

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    Position: Centre forward
    Age: 29
    Nationality: Nigerian

    If you thought Yakubu was a washed up footballer then say "aye".


    Yakubu scored 12 goals in 68 games during his last three injury-ridden seasons at Everton. 

    Oh and his weight was starting to become an impediment. 

    After a successful detour at Leicester City, he has now scored 10 goals in 12 games for a Blackburn Rovers team destined for relegation. 

    I guess the Evertonians were right. 

    If you feed the Yak, he'll score. 

Montpellier: Henri Bedimo

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    Position: Left back
    Age: 27
    Nationality: Cameroonian 

    Olivier Giroud is rightfully getting all the plaudits for Montpellier gate-crashing Paris Saint-Germain's seemingly inevitable Ligue 1 title after 17 games. 

    However, do not undervalue Henri Bedimo's role in Montpellier's success. 

    Blessed with endurance and solid ball interception tendencies, Bedimo could be to a Premier League club to what Hérita Ilunga was for West Ham United. 

    Mind you, Ilunga burnt out after one remarkable season. 

Kuban Krasnodar: Lacina Traoré

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    Position: Centre forward
    Age: 21
    Nationality: Ivorian 

    Standing at 6'8", you'd think Lacina Traoré would be more privy to playing small forward for Lokomotiv Kuban, than centre forward for Kuban Krasnodar. 

    Traoré was on the books of ASEC Mimosas, the same club which produced Emmanuel Eboué, Gervinho and Kolo Touré, so you'd assume Arsenal were aware of Traoré's ability.

    They should have bought him before Kuban but maybe money was the incentive for Traoré.

    Either way, he is scoring goals in the Russian Premier League, and now needs to become more prolific as a certain No. 8 at CSKA Moscow.

Blackburn Rovers: Christopher Samba

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    Position: Centre back
    Age: 27
    Nationality: Congolese

    Christopher Samba's performances towards the end of the last season were memorable.

    The photo taken by Mike Hewitt captures the moment when Samba blocks a near certain Carlton Cole goal.

    This quote from Samba illustrates how much he wants to move to a bigger club:

    "At the minute I am still at Blackburn but it would be a big lie if I told you 'Everything is good and I don't want to play in the Champions League.'"

    Relegation for Rovers will certainly mean the end of Samba at Ewood Park, and I wonder when it's crunch time and Rovers are struggling to fight off relegation, if he'll play with the same intensity as he normally plays. 

Freiburg: Papiss Cissé

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    Position: Centre forward
    Age: 26
    Nationality: Senegalese

    Papiss Cissé might be a big fish in a small pond or a future goal scoring record breaker.

    Last season, he finished six goals behind Mario Gómez for the Bundesliga Golden Boot. 

    Of course, Gómez has Arjen Robben, Franck Ribéry and Thomas Müller.

    Whereas the second best player at Freiburg is Oliver Baumann, and he's diving around trying to concede less goals. 

    Last season, Cissé scored 54 percent of Freiburg goals in the Bundesliga. 

    This season, it's 45 percent and rising. 

Sochaux: Ryad Boudebouz

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    Position: Right winger
    Age: 21
    Nationality: Algerian 

    Sochaux have two good prospects in Marvin Martin and Ryad Boudebouz. 

    I'd take Martin because don't get sold by Boudebouz's flashy skills.

    We've all seen what Adel Taarabt can do on YouTube but how is he in real life?

    Gabriel Obertan with his stationary step overs spring to mind.

    That being said, Boudebouz has looked good and has played well. 

    Though, I do not think he'll transition into a world class player. 

Udinese: Kwadwo Asamoah

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    Position: Centre midfielder
    Age: 23
    Nationality: Ghanaian

    Kwadwo Asamoah surprises many Serie A players when he beats them off the dribble because they're assuming he's just a feisty and determined midfielder.

    It's about time he emulates his former teammate Alexis Sánchez in moving to a bigger club. 

Arsenal: Gervinho

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    Position: Left winger
    Age: 24
    Nationality: Ivorian 

    It was pathetic that the FA deemed what Gervinho did was violent conduct but turned a blind eye to Yaya Touré's disgraceful conduct against Chelsea. 

    Nonetheless, Gervinho has been a constant threat cutting in from the left. 

    A month or so ago, he went through a purple patch where he scored a goal and provided six assists in seven games. 

Arsenal: Alex Song

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    Position: Defensive midfielder
    Age: 24
    Nationality: Cameroonian 

    Alex Song is a defensive midfielder that is meant to protect Arsenal's centre-back in a high line oriented defence. 

    Yet, so many times, he is caught out of position wandering too far forward. 

    In the future, I envision a free role for Song in midfield, like the role Arturo Vidal played during the 2010-11 season for Bayer Leverkusen. 

    Like Vidal, Song is a solid tackler and technically adept enough to consistently score goals and provide assists if played in a more attacking position.

    He has what it takes to transition into a complete midfielder. 

Newcastle United: Demba Ba

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    Position: Centre forward
    Age: 26
    Nationality: Senegalese

    If Newcastle United weren't so thrifty, then they wouldn't have even entertained the thought of signing Demba Ba.

    Supposedly Ba's knees are so bad that not even Stoke City would take a chance on the Senegalese.

    Seemingly all he can do is score, score and score. 

    Alan Pardew will be praying a Hail Mary every time Ba steps on the football pitch. 

Udinese: Mehdi Benatia

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    Position: Centre back
    Age: 24
    Nationality: Moroccan 

    Udinese constantly find gems. 

    Alexis Sánchez, Cristián Zapata, David Pizarro, Gökhan İnler and Mauricio Isla all come to mind. 

    Mehdi Benatia is another one. 

    Agile, solid in the tackle, clean in distribution. 

    He's bound for a bigger club. 

A.C. Milan: Kevin-Prince Boateng

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    Position: Attacking midfielder
    Age: 24
    Nationality: Ghanaian 

    Kevin-Prince Boateng played for Portsmouth? 

    That hat-trick was more impressive than his moon walk. 

    When one thinks of the trequartista, Boateng doesn't come to mind, but he did come to Massimiliano Allegri's mind. 

    Not only is he producing but he brings steel and forward pressing. 

CSKA Moscow: Seydou Doumbia

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    Position: Centre forward 
    Age: 23
    Nationality: Ivorian 

    Seydou Doumbia dribbled past the Trabzonspor defence as if it was a training session. 

    Wasn't it blatantly obvious that Doumbia had class when he was scoring goals for fun in the Swiss Super League?

    Why don't Premier League clubs take a chance with Doumbia?

    Instead the only way he'll leave CSKA Moscow is if he's priced out or he loses form (injury aside, won't happen anytime soon). 

Manchester City: Yaya Touré

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    Position: Centre midfielder
    Age: 28
    Nationality: Ivorian 

    Yaya Touré is a superb box-to-box midfielder and it's his best role. 

    He shouldn't be deployed as a defensive midfielder because it stifles his ability to penetrate opposing defences with beast mode runs. 

    He shouldn't be deployed as an attacking midfielder because he lacks the finesse and creativity to play there. 

    Interestingly enough, maybe if he played as a centre midfielder when on trial for Arsenal, he would have been an Arsenal player. 

    Here's Arsène Wenger recalling his memories of Yaya:

    "Yaya Touré played for us in a pre-season game as a second striker and he was completely average on the day. We decided to wait for the passport application and then, when he was close to applying, he moved to Ukraine [to Metalurh Donetsk] so we lost the whole chance of the deal."

Marseille: André Ayew

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    Position: Left winger
    Age: 21
    Nationality: Ghanaian 

    Slightly perplexed as to how André Ayew won the BBC African Footballer of the Year for 2011.

    He's having a great year but I don't see how he could be awarded the accolade when there are far better candidates in the field. 

    What has held Ayew in good stead is his willingness to attack the ball on the field and aerially. 

    This has resulted in him transitioning into a star and also scoring six headed goals. 

    An impressive achievement when you consider Ayew is only 5'9". 

Tottenham Hotspur: Emmanuel Adebayor

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    Position: Centre forward
    Age: 27
    Nationality: Togolese 

    If anyone ever wants proof that José Mourinho is a master motivator, just look at the transformation of Emmanuel Adebayor.

    Even though he was playing up front, he played like a centre back, charging into opposing defenders and running himself into the ground like Scott Parker. 

    It was just weird because of Adebayor's reputation as a selfish player. 

    He's been so solid for Tottenham Hotspur not only scoring goals but creating goals. 

    Eight goals and six assists in 12 games. 

Lille: Moussa Sow

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    Position: Centre forward 
    Age: 25
    Nationality: Senegalese 

    Moussa Sow's Ligue 1 leading 25 goals were a main factor in Lille's league triumph. 

    If he is to move to a bigger club it should be now because he is in his prime and he has three or four good seasons left in him. 

    His teammates Gervinho and Yohan Cabaye has left. 

    So it's up to Sow. 

Anzhi Makhachkala: Samuel Eto’o

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    Position: Centre forward
    Age: 30
    Nationality: Cameroonian

    How on earth was Samuel Eto’o not awarded the BBC African Footballer of the Year for 2011?

    25 goals and 11 assists in the calendar year. 

    What about him taking a stand for his teammates who year after year have been taken advantage by the Cameroonian Football Federation. 

    Were the BBC scared that they might offend Cameroon?

    There's a reason why Anzhi Makhachkala made Eto'o the most expensive footballer in the world and it wasn't because he had a bad year. 

Your Opinion

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    There are some notable exclusions from this list, so feel free to comment below with you why you believe a certain player should be on this list. 

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