Ballon d’or finalists 2017
Who will succeed to Riyad Mahrez? The shining Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, the flamboyant Sadio Mane, or the stellar Mohamed Salah? Let’s take a quick look at the line up before the final reveal on January 4th in Accra.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Dortmund, Gabon)
The Gabonese is the only one from the trio to win the prestigious award before. Over the past three years, his impressive regularity in the face of any goal almost guarantees him a spot on the podium. This year again, Bundesliga’s best striker did not disappoint, with 43 goals in 52 games with Dortmund. A ratio comparable to that of the world’s best strikers, which gives him a good chance in the polls.
Nonetheless, despite this avalanche of goals, Dortmund did not lift any cup aside from Germany’s, after failing to keep up with the Bayern Munich. The former Saint-Etienne player could have bet on the CAN, fought on his land, to mitigate these results, but Gabon really did not shine in the group phase. During qualifiers games, it wasn’t much better, and the Panthers won’t be fighting for the World Cup in Russia next summer. This is something that could hurt his odds against his competitors.
Mohammed Salah (Liverpool, Egypt)
His obvious talent took its sweet time to hatch, but it did and he’s now soaring through the skies. Picked up at the AS Roma, with two glorious seasons to make up for his Chelsea misadventures. Since this summer, the Egyptian winger is making the Liverpool FC proud. Snatched for 42 million euros – making him the most expensive African player in history – he never disappoints dribbling, striking, and scoring on the banks of the Mersey with no less than 14 goals in Premier League and 6 in the Champions League since the season’s beginning.
Unlike Aubameyang, Salah can stand proud of his selection this year. The former FC Basel player played no small part in Egypt’s qualification for the World Cup, a first since 1990, thanks to five goals (including a double in a decisive game against Congo). His defeat in the CAN 2017, won by Vincent Aboubakar’s Cameroon, is the only black mark in a stellar year which could make him the first Egyptian Ballon d’or.
Sadio Mané (Liverpool, Sénégal)
Salah’s teammate in Liverpool also produced a magnificent season. Scoring 13 times in 2016/2017, he allowed the Reds to keep flying high in the Premier League, before his injury against Everton “cost the title” to his team, in Steven Gerrard’s word. Injured again after another stellar season’s opening, the former Southampton lad delivered two critical passes during his great return against West Ham in early November, proving everybody he was still a force to be reckoned with.
Singled out as the best Senegalese player for the fourth consecutive time last November, Sadio Mane had also been one of the great architects of the Lions of Teranga’s qualification to the World Cup in Russia, a first since the 2002 and the golden generation led by El-Hadji Diouf. Nonetheless, he failed last February, missing a key penalty shot against Cameroon, mitigating an otherwise spectacular performance.
1/ Salah (60%)
2/ Mané (30%)
3/ Aubameyang (10%)