Wilfried Bony: The glaring omission from the African Player of the Year shortlist.
Admittedly, Wilfried Bony isn’t enjoying the best year of his career, but after being shortlisted for Fifa’s Ballon d’Or, the Manchester City and Ivory Coast striker must surely have been a little surprised when he was overlooked for Caf’s 39-man shortlist for the African Player of the Year award.
The frontman finds himself in the bizarre position of being celebrated among the 60 best players in the world, but simultaneously not finding himself in Africa’s finest 40!
Ballon d’Or shortlist: Who’s in, who’s out for Africa?
Obviously, these awards are a question of opinion and of perception—to a degree certainly—but Bony is arguably the headline omission, despite his well-documented struggles at club level this season.
Indeed, the forward’s exclusion from the African award is arguably as baffling as his inclusion in the running for the worldwide trophy.
As we have previously explored, the Ivorian’s insertion in the Ballon d’Or selection was unexpected .
The attacker has been increasingly derided in recent months following his unconvincing showings at the Etihad Stadium. Last season’s failings—following the forward’s £25m move from Swansea City during the January transfer window—were excused to an extent due to the necessary acclimatisation.
Bony | Took his time to live up to City’s expectations after leaving Swansea
Bony’s stats during the 2014-15 season
However, this season, Bony has again struggled to ignite, and it’s been remarkable just how different City have looked when the Ivorian, rather than Sergio Aguero is leading the line.
Admittedly, the Argentine forward is a special player who few can match up to, but his West African teammate has done little to suggest that he can lead the line for the title contenders.
Bony’s stats for Manchester City so far this season
This season, Bony has yet to score in six appearances and 216 minutes of Premier League action. Aguero, by contrast, has featured in eight matches and has six goals in 548 minutes. The former Atletico Madrid hitman scored over twice as many in 20 minutes against Newcastle United as the Ivorian has in 513 Premier League minutes for the Citizens!
Very happy about the five goals and the victory. Thank you all for the encouragement and support. C’mon, City!
— Sergio Kun Aguero (@aguerosergiokun) October 3, 2015
Even teenage Nigerian striker Kelechi Iheanacho has enjoyed more scoring success than his high-profile colleague this season, finding the net after only two minutes of EPL action, against Crystal Palace.
89. @67Kelechi has replaced Wilfried Bony for City. His second Premier League appearance. Is there time for him to make a name for himself?
— Manchester City FC (@MCFC) September 12, 2015
To date in 2015, Bony has managed five goals in all competitive matches for club and country. It’s a dismal return for a striker at such a major club, and it’s fascinating that he makes the Ballon d’Or cut ahead of the likes of Gianluigi Buffon—who won a double with Juventus and helped the Old Lady to the Champions League final—and players such as Philipp Lahm, Sergio Busquets, Raphael Varane and Nemanja Matic.
Even Bony’s own teammate David Silva might feel peeved that his teammate made the shortlist while he was left in the cold!
PELLEGRINI: “I have absolute trust in what Bony can do. I think we have enough options for striker with him, @aguerosergiokun & @67Kelechi .”
— Manchester City FC (@MCFC) September 18, 2015
However, while the forward might count himself somewhat fortune to have been named among the world’s finest 59 players, he could be bemused at having been overlooked by Caf for the African award.
Despite his struggles, does £25m Bony not have a rightful place among the continent’s 40 best players?
£25 million and an Afcon winner, but Bony has been overlooked for the continent’s grandest prize
Admittedly, while the 26-year-old has yet to prove that he can lead the line for the Citizens, he is also yet to convince that he can replace Didier Drogba for the Ivory Coast.
The Chelsea great managed 65 goals in 105 outings for the Elephants, and became a national icon as he guided the West African nation to three World Cups.
Bony, who saw off Lacina Traore and Seydou Doumbia to take Drogba’s mantle, may have achieved something his predecessor never could—by winning the Cup of Nations—but he has yet to match the veteran’s impact (or scoring record).
Regardless, the forward surely did enough in Equatorial Guinea during the Afcon —notably his brace against Algeria—to merit inclusion in the APOTY shortlist, particularly considering the weight given to this tournament.
It was Bony’s individual performance against Algeria that saw the uninspired Ivorians through to the Afcon semi-finals
Fellow Elephants Gervinho, Yaya Toure, Max Gradel and Serge Aurier have all been shortlisted, while Kolo Toure has been overlooked and Sylvain Gbohouo is only in the running for the Africa-based Player of the Year award.
Perhaps the aforementioned four can all call upon strong club performances beyond the Afcon as reason for their inclusion, although Caf’s decision to name Christian Atsu in the 39-man shortlist confirms that one or two strong performances can indeed ‘make’ a year!
The Ghana international has been selected exclusively on the back of his two goals and one assist in six performances in Equatorial Guinea, beyond that, his 2015 was limited to 110 minutes (and one assist) for Everton, and two brief cameos in the League Cup for Bournemouth this season.
Bony, who was named in the Afcon Team of the Tournament alongside Atsu, arguably outperformed the Black Star during the Cup of Nations; beyond his brace against Algeria, he contributed decisive assists against Guinea and in the semi-final against the Democratic Republic of Congo. The crucial difference between the pair is that Bony actually won the tournament itself!
As well as Atsu, Bony could also argue that his decisive contributions in Equatorial Guinea set him apart from various players shortlisted for the award. Dieumerci Mbokani of Norwich City, for example, is not out of place on this selection, but should his 2015 tally of four competitive goals (three at the Cup of Nations as the DR Congo finished third) really see him selected ahead of Bony?
Similarly, are the likes of Thievy Bifouma (seven competitive wins in 2015), Ferebory Dore (two goals all year), and Heldon Ramos (three competitive victories, two goals and two assists) really worthier inclusions?
Intriguingly, the Ivorian now has the ideal opportunity to demonstrate that Caf were wrong to exclude him from their award and make a mockery of their selection process.
With Aguero set to be out until November due to a hamstring injury sustained during the international break, Bony will likely be called upon to lead the Citizen’s title challenge for their next half-dozen matches.
As discussed above, the Ivorian still has much to prove to Manuel Pellegrini and the club’s fans. Caf’s snub should be all the motivation the forward needs to make the most of Aguero’s latest setback and prove that he belongs on any list of Africa’s finest.