Chelsea star, Victor Moses, was left out as the Confederation of African Football announced the three finalists for this year’s African Player award. A Nigerian player has not won the award since Nwankwo Kanu picked it in 1999.
Moses’ snub is not only to be rued by Nigerians, but also by players in the defensive positions.
The snub came as a surprise to many, after Moses’ successful season during which he won his first English Premier League title with Chelsea. He also played a pivotal role in Nigeria’s successful qualifying campaign for Russia 2018.
Moses, traditionally a forward, featured in a new position, playing as right-wing back, after a tweak in the Chelsea team. He has been a mainstay playing in his new role, and his absence has usually created an obvious vacuum in the team.
After making the list of five players before the final three were named, the wing back was the only player in a defensive role, with the others being attacking players. His omission further accentuates the concerns that defenders and defensive role players are gradually phasing out of winning major individual awards for outstanding performance.
At Chelsea last season, the 27-year-old played a vital role in what could be described as his best season as a professional footballer, featuring 34 times in his new roles as Chelsea marched to the league title. He was involved in four goals (2 goals, 2 assists) and formed part of a formidable defence line for the Blues.
The former Wigan winger has as much as made the new position his fortress, with new signing Zappacosta unable to hold down the right-wing back position in his absence, showing the level of his importance to the Stamford Bridge outfit.
At the international level, Moses was heavily involved in a young Gernot Rohr side, pulling off great performances as Nigeria secured a ticket to their sixth World Cup appearance in Russia.
While the abilities of the final three CAF nominees cannot be questioned, a final trio list with Victor Moses, Mo Salah and any of Pierre Emerick Aubameyang or Saido Mane would have seemed more appreciative of the players’ abilities.
Mohammad Salah has definitely staked his claim, and he’s outright favourite to win the award, after recently claiming the BBC African Player of the year award, in what has been a magnificent year for the Egyptian, leading the Pharaohs to their first World Cup appearance in over two decades and currently shining in the English topflight as the highest goal scorer with 14 goals in 18 outings.
The duo of Aubameyang and Senegalese forward Mane also flourished across the year but choosing one of the two might have represented a balance for the good of African football.
Last year’s winner Pierre Emerick Aubameyang scored a blistering 40 goals in 46 appearance and has already picked up the pace this season with 21 goals in as many matches, also recently surpassing Tony Yeboah’s record in the Bundesliga. Mane, on his part, was instrumental in Liverpool’s charge for the top four in the EPL, also leading Senegal to the World Cup.
Defenders have had to do with enjoying less fame – unlike their attacking-role scoring counterparts -for their work done, with the exception of Cannavaro who won the Ballon d’Or in 2006 – the first and probably the last.
Notwithstanding, awards are given to defenders, but those only represent and recognise them among players in their roles, and not among elite players in all positions, especially those in the attacking roles.
Victor Moses would definitely rue his omission from the CAF final list, and would expect a better luck next time, but his absence definitely stamps the fact that only attacking players are appreciated for their feats.