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The Berekum Chelsea forward is currently in the lead, but there is good reason to believe that he will be overtaken by the TP Mazembe man in the race for Africa's golden boot

By Rami Ayari

Early July marks the return of 2012 Caf Champions League action and, by the looks of it, the competition for the scoring title will be just as tight as the race for team silverware.

Below is a list of the five players who are still active in the tournament and are most likely to claim Africa’s golden boot.

5. IZU AZUKA (SUNSHINE STARS)


Goals so far: Four

Though he is just 23-years-old, Izu Azuka has already plied his trade for four clubs, with his career taking him from Sharks FC to JS Kabylie, then Al-Ittihad Tripoli before a return to the Nigeria Premier League where he has well and truly found a home at Sunshine Stars. The young striker has scored four goals, including one at home and another away in a 2-1 aggregate win over Djoliba that secured passage to the elite eight group stage, where Sunshine face all north African opposition in the form of Esperance, Etoile, and ASO Chlef.

For such a young player, it is impressive that Azuka is currently tied for third in the 2012 Caf Champions League top scorer’s list. However, one wonders whether he will be able to keep finishing at this rate against much tougher opposition considering that his club has not had to face top class opposition in the tournament yet. Perhaps we will have our answer as early as July, when the Nigerians host the defending continental champions Esperance. If he scores in that one, his confidence will be sky high going forward.

4. YOUSSEF MSAKNI (ESPERANCE)


Goals so far: Three

The diminutive winger has not been super sharp in front of goal recently, but is still leading the defending Caf Champions League winners at the moment with three goals, just as he did during their successful 2011 campaign in which he scored five times. Unlike many other African sides that rely heavily on one player for goals, Esperance tend to have many sources for their finishes, which is why Msakni does not rank higher on this list.

Last year, when he had five, Oussamma Darragi and Yannick N’Djeng were not far behind with four each. Nevertheless, the youngster is liable to explode without warning in the group stages, with an eye towards confirming his recent rise to prominence. Meanwhile, the fact that the Lille target creates plenty of opportunities for his team-mates bodes well for the Blood and Gold. With European clubs angling for his signature, this will almost surely be Msakni’s final run with his Esperance side and he will be looking to end his time in Tunisia with a bang.

3. MOHAMED ABOUTRIKA (AL AHLY)

Goals so far: Five

The Egyptian legend needs little introduction, if any, and is currently in second place on the top scorer’s list despite being one of the older players in the competition at 33. Three of his goals came when his embattled team were on the verge of a premature elimination. Al Ahly needed a minimum of all of them to secure progression to the group stages after falling 2-0 on aggregate to Stade Malien and, right on cue, the 'Smiling Assassin' struck three in a row in minutes 54, 82, and 88.

It is performances such as that one that command respect and give Al Ahly followers confidence that Aboutrika can lead them to another continental title despite all of the problems plaguing Egyptian football at the moment. The Egyptian maestro’s experience will give him an edge over plenty of other golden boot candidates, but his unselfishness may see him fall just short as he is admirably just as happy (and effective) at assisting as he is at dispatching chances.

2. EMMANUEL CLOTTEY (BEREKUM CHELSEA)


Goals so far: Six

He is the current leading scorer of the 2012 Caf Champions League and each one of his goals has helped Berekum Chelsea to an unprecedented run of results in Africa’s most important club tournament. Though he may still be a relative unknown to the wider continental audience who have yet to see him play, expect that to change as the Ghanaians go into the group stages for the first time in their history seeking to scalp well established sides such as Al-Ahly, Zamalek, and TP Mazembe.

Clottey has already come up big for Chelsea, scoring away in Garoua to knock out Cameroonian champions Coton Sport, but now he has to prove that he can continue to do the same against higher quality opposition. Even though he is the current leader, his lack of experience at this level and the fact that he is going up against defensively organised teams such as Zamalek and Al-Ahly are the reasons why the player is not our number one pick for the golden boot.

1. TRESOR MPUTU (TP MAZEMBE)

Goals so far: Four

He may not be the leading scorer yet but he is only two off the pace set by Emmanuel Clottey, and plays for a team that has a much higher chance of performing well in the group stages. During Mazembe’s previous continental triumph, he split most of the goal-scoring responsibilities with Dioko Kaluyituka, who has since left for Al Ahli SC in the Qatar Stars League.

Thus, most of the scoring burden has fallen to Mputu who should not have a problem rising to the challenge considering his past exploits. Mazembe are out to prove a point after Fifa ruled that their disqualification from last year’s Caf Champions League was unmerited and Mputu is also seeking individual redemption after his 12-month suspension following his attack on a referee. The chip on his team’s shoulder could prove to be the fuel that powers them to their fifth Champions League trophy of all time and the third in the last four years. Plus, it could be the last chance for the 26-year-old who was once an Arsenal target to entice European scouts.

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