Africa correspondent Samm Audu rates the best 10 African performers of the outgoing year...
The young midfielder showed some battling qualities many thought he did not have at the Nations Cup, where the Super Eagles barely made it to the last eight. Many predicted that he would not have a future at Chelsea following the shock departure of Jose Mourinho, but Avram Grant kept faith with him and this season Luiz Felipe Scolari has given him even more responsibilities, which he has relished in the absence of the injured Michael Essien.
9. Mohamed Zidan (Egypt & Hamburger SV/Borussia Dortmund)
He was unsettled at German Bundesliga outfit Hamburg last season, but his switch to Borussia Dortmund has seen him prove his class. He has already matched his three-goal tally for Humburg last season at Dortmund in just seven games. He was outstanding in his Nations Cup debut in Ghana, showing what a clinical and classy finisher he is, with two superbly struck goals in Egypt's opening group game against mighty Cameroon.
8. Frederic Kanoute (Mali & Sevilla)
He was named Africa's top star for 2007 by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) in Lome, Togo - only because Drogba failed to attend the awards, being just next door in Ghana with Ivory Coast participating in the Nations Cup. Mali partly owe Kanoute their comeback after they failed miserably in the qualifers for the 2006 World Cup and so did not feature at the 2006 Nations Cup in Egypt.
7. Sulley Muntari (Ghana & Portsmouth/Inter)
The Ghana midfielder is back the familiar terrain of Italy, after leaving Udinese for a season at Portsmouth, where he won an FA Cup winners' medal. He has settled down at star-studded Inter without too much trouble. Earlier in the year, he played a major part for his country, too, as Nations Cup hosts Ghana went as far as the semi-finals, despite losing the inspirational Stephen Appiah through injury before the competition had even begun.
6. Didier Drogba (Ivory Coast/Chelsea)
Injuries and controversies made sure that the big man failed to match his performance of the 2006/07 season, when he was far and away the best African player. He has yet to reach his high standards again but when he does, it will be to the benefit of both club and country. Still, performed well for Chelsea and proved an asset whenever he was in the team.
5. Micheal Essien (Ghana & Chelsea)
The former Lyon midfielder came into his own last season at Stamford Bridge, as Chelsea reached their first-ever UEFA Champions League final. He was also the heart and soul of an average Ghana Black Stars side that exceeded many expectations to reach the last four of the Nations Cup they hosted in February.
4. Amr Zaki (Egypt & Zamalek/Wigan Athletic)
Egyptian players are not known to be great travellers, but this Zamalek centre-forward has already made a success of his second shot at glory in Europe with some cracking goals for modest Wigan in the English Premier League. It is little wonder that he has now been linked with some of Europe's top guns by the time his loan deal at Wigan runs out, though Steve Bruce is understandably eager to keep the goal machine at the JJB Stadium.
However, it was his five-star showing at the Nations Cup that really got the world to take notice. He scored thrice as well as taught an Ivorian back-four complete with Arsenal's Kolo Toure a football lesson in the semi-finals of the tournament. Egypt went on to claim their second Nations Cup in a row.
3. Emmanuel Adebayor (Togo & Arsenal)
Filled the goal-scoring void left by French legend Therry Henry at Arsenal last season by scoring 30 goals in all competitions. However, the Gunners failed to land any piece of silverware. He has also kept Togo in the reckoning for a second World Cup finals appearance after putting four goals past Swaziland.
2. Samuel Eto'o (Cameroon & Barcelona)
Barcelona did not win anything last term and even wanted to make the Cameroonian star one of the scapegoats for this, but the three-time African Player of the Year has since proved he still knows his way to goal, with an incredible 14 goals in La liga already. Last season he was hampered by injury and even came close to leaving Camp Nou this summer.
At the Nations Cup in Ghana, he put to rest the all-time scoring record of 14 goals set by Ivorian striker Laurent Pokou by scoring a total of 16 and counting.
1. Mohamed Aboutrika (Egypt & Al Ahly)
He was the continent's best player in 2008. He may still be playing his club football in Africa, but no one can doubt the quality of this attacking midfielder, who has made it a habit to score the important goals - whether for his club Al Ahly or the Egyptian national team.
He scored the goal that won the Pharaohs the Nations Cup in Accra for an unprecedented sixth time and has been the heart of an average Ahly team, as they also won an unprecedented sixth Champions trophy. Besides these accomplishments, this 30-year-old has shown great consistency at the top since 2005.
Samm Audu, Goal.com