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Who will win African footballer of the year?

  • Story Highlights
  • CAF African Footballer of the Year award to be announced Tuesday
  • Arsenal's Adebayor, Chelsea's Essien and Al Ahly's Aboutrika compete
  • The award is set to take place at a glitzy bash in Lagos, Nigeria
  • Who do you think is the best African player? Have your say
  • Next Article in World Sport »
By James Montague
For CNN
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- It is one of the most prestigious awards in world football, one that recognizes some of the finest footballers in the game, whilst alerting the best teams in Europe to a huge pool of untapped talent.

Frederic Kanoute

Frederic Kanoute picks up last year's CAF African Footballer of the Year Award.

Tuesday night sees the Confederation of African Football (CAF) African Player of the Year crowned in a lavish ceremony held in Lagos, Nigeria.

Two English Premier league players, Arsenal's Emmanuel Adebayor and Chelsea's Michael Essien are competing to take home the award. The third contender is Mohamed Aboutrika of the Egyptian team Al Ahly.

All three have a good chance of winning the title, although Adebayor goes in to the ceremony as favorite.

Who do you think should win? Have your say

Two of Africa's most respected footballers, former winners Didier Drogba and Samuel Eto'o have backed the Arsenal man whilst former winner Jay-Jay Okocha has spoken out in favor of the Aboutrika, who would be the first African-based player to win the award in over two decades.

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"If it [CAF] is to pick the player that merits the 2008 award, I will give it to Aboutrika without blinking my eyes," Okocha told Nigeria's Daily Sun newspaper in the build up to tomorrow's award.

Certainly he makes a good claim for the accolade. Whilst Adebayor and Essien were pivotal players for club and country, both finished 2008 empty handed. Aboutrika, on the other hand, scored the goal that won the Egypt the African Cup of Nations and drove his club side Al Ahly to both domestic league and African Champions League glory.

Whether that is enough remains to be seen as the ceremony has been dogged with controversy in recent years. Nigerian forward Okocha, who controversially missed out to Samuel Eto'o for the 2004 award, claimed that internal political considerations, rather than footballing achievement, are the most important factors when deciding a winner.

"Politics plays a very important role in the emergence of the best African player," he said. "My inability to win the award [in 2004] made a lot of people cry foul."

And last year Chelsea forward Didier Drogba vowed to boycott the awards after being told that only players who turned up to the ceremony would have a chance of winning.

"A prominent CAF official [was] telling me that if I did not come to the ceremony, the rules would be changed and the award would be given to the second-placed player," he told French newspaper L'Equipe.

The award eventually went to Sevilla's prolific striker Frederic Kanoute. CAF deny that they switched the awards at the last moment.

With next year's World Cup in South Africa looming -- the first time the tournament will be held on the continent -- there has never been a greater focus on African football. And it isn't just Africa's best known players who will be recognized in Lagos.

Other categories include Young Player of the Year, Team of the Year and Manager of the Year. Unsurprisingly given their dominance of both international and continental football over the past year, Egypt features prominently, securing eight nominations in total.

But who do you think should be named CAF African Player of the Year? And were "The Pharaohs" really the best African team of 2008?

Emmanuel Adebayor, Arsenal, Togo

There weren't many people in north London who thought that Arsenal's striker had the ability to step into Thierry Henry's massive shoes when the Frenchmen fled to Barcelona. But Emmanuel Adebayor confounded the doubters with a season that saw him score an incredible 30 goals in all competitions followed by another 14 so far during this campaign.

But it wasn't just the goals that impressed. Adebayor's ability to bring his team mates into play around him whilst providing a hatful of assists has been invaluable to Arsene Wenger's team.

Internationally, after playing for Togo in their first ever World Cup in 2006, Adebayor is currently spearheading the team's 2010 qualifying campaign, where they have reached the final group stage. Not bad for a country with a population of just six million people.

Mohamed Aboutrika, Al Ahly, Egypt

Few outside of Africa had heard of Mohamed Aboutrika until the rangy midfielder took the 2008 African Champions League by the scruff of the neck. Aboutrika is quite simply the beating heart of both Al Ahly and the Egyptian national team.

With his penetrating runs from midfield, goals and ability to be the creative fulcrum around which the rest of the team pivots, Aboutrika is arguably Africa's most complete player.

He may well be the only footballer on the list who doesn't play in one of Europe's top teams but there's no questioning his achievements. In 2008 he lead Egypt to back to back African Cup of Nations victories, secured yet another domestic title for Al Ahly and, for good measure, was instrumental in their record sixth African Champions League title.

Michael Essien, Chelsea, Ghana

Last year was nothing if not action packed for Chelsea's combative midfielder Michael Essien. Africa's most expensive player began 2008 with a virtuoso performance at the 2008 African Cup Of Nations in his home country, driving the Black Stars to the semi finals and being named team of the tournament.

But it was for Chelsea that he truly excelled, being instrumental in driving Chelsea on to second place in the Premiership and runners up in both the Champions League and the Carling Cup.

Currently on the sidelines with a serious knee injury, Chelsea has been a shadow of their former selves without the Ghanaian. This is the fourth time in a row that Essien has made the final shortlist.

Can he finally win the award that so many feel he deserves?

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