The Ballon d’Or nominations have been made and Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are once again going head to head to see who will be named football’s best player in 2016. These two titans have been going head to head like Tom and Jerry since 2007, the last time a different player won the award.
The decision, whichever way it goes will once again split opinion globally as ‘Messians’ and ‘Ronaldinos’ make the case as to who is the better of the two. Africa has had its fair share of great players and although George Weah remains the only African to have won the Ballon d’Or, there are many player rivalries that would give the Messi-Ronaldo ones some competition.
We take a look at five of these:
Two of Africa’s great names from the early 90s. Many would argue that Weah was the better striker given his exploits with AC Milan, during which he won the Ballon d’Or in 1995. But Weah never made it to a World Cup with Liberia – Roger Milla did, scoring four goals at Italia ’90, revealing his corner flag azonto celebration each time. Add the cherry on top, Milla is the oldest player to have scored a World Cup goal at age 42, which means his name will continue to be remembered for a long time to come.
Six African Football Player of the Year awards between them, four European Champions league medals and numerous domestic titles in Italy, England and Spain mean that ‘Dretoo’ rank as two of the most feared African strikers to ever play in Europe. Drogba battered defenders into submission during his time at Chelsea while Eto’o chose to use cunning runs between defenders.
Eto’o also spent some time at Chelsea, but it was his exploits with Barcelona and Inter Milan which stand out the most. This one is certainly too close to call.
In their heyday, both of these players were uncompromising in their defending. Kuffour dominated in a Bayern Munich defence that won several Bundesliga titles and will forever be remembered for his tears of agony when Bayern lost to Manchester United in the Champions league in 1999. Touré (Kolo) meanwhile was a member of the Arsenal ‘Invincibles’, the last Arsenal side to win the English Premier League and unlike Kuffour, until now he has not managed to overturn the disappointment of losing a Champions League final match.
Although Kuffour is retired, now a commentator for South African sports channel SuperSports, Touré plays on, with current club Celtic. He is bound to add to his domestic honours by winning the Scottish Premier League title. Kuffour still takes this duel anytime, any day.
Toure (Yaya), the younger of the famous Ivory Coast brothers led the national team, The Elephants to their 2015 Africa Cup of Nations title. He ensured that the ‘golden generation’ of Ivory Coast football will not just be remembered for their two failed attempts at winning the title.
On his day, he is a juggernaut, leaving opponents in his wake and scoring stunning goals for fun. If any player could try and match Touré, it would be Essien, the hard-tackling, boomerang-shooting former Chelsea and Ghana midfielder.
So good they named him twice. That saying, describing Nigeria’s midfield talisman never gets old. Okocha dazzled for the world to see and still remains one of the great African play makers of all time. Although one blemish on his career is not having won any major domestic title in France, Germany or England.
The fact that Abedi Ayew was nicknamed ‘Pelé’ should already be an indication as to the type of player he was. He was a pioneer for African players in Europe and was among the Marseille team that defeated AC Milan in the 1993 final. Abedi’s talent also saw him win the African Player of the Year award, as well as the Nations Cup.
Good-luck to Riyad Mahrez and Pierre Aubameyang, who are the only two Africans among this year’s world best player nominations.