The Confederation of African Football (CAF) on Tuesday, January 7 released their 2018 Africa Best XI to much variance.
Indeed, they are questions to be asked of some of the names in the squad. The inclusion of the likes of Serge Aurier and Eric Bailly are especially confusing.
Aurier is not the elite right-back he was during his Paris Saint-Germain days and played second fiddle to Kieran Trippier in 2018. Eric Bailly’s inconsistency has been well documented and even the defender himself would have been shocked at his inclusion.
Naby Keita could not replicate his explosiveness for Leipzig in the first half of 2018 and endured a slow start to life at Liverpool in England in the second half of the year.
In addition to not having an obvious good year with their clubs, Aurier, Bailly and Keita missed out on the biggest football tournament of 2018, the FIFA World Cup in Russia.
The likes of Achraf Hakimi who was a revelation for Morocco and Borussia Dortmund in 2018, Franck Kessie who enjoyed a breakout year for AC Milan and Wilfred Ndidi who continues to excel at Leicester City deserve to be on the list.
The best XI had pushbacks from Nigerians -no Nigerian player made the squad- mainly because of the absence of Ndidi. It was Ndidi’s Super Eagles teammate John Ogu who led the protest on Twitter, writing;
“Sorry to say this but @Ndidi25 should be here . My own opinion. Guys in that position didn’t do more than him,” Ogu said.
Of a truth, Ndidi had a better 2018 than midfielders Thomas Partey and Keita who made the list. But what seemed not to have worked in his favour is the calibre of the club he plays for.
Partey won Europa League in 2018 with Atletico Madrid while Keita finally made the move to Liverpool in the summer. And going from the theme of the XI, it was made just based off the popular clubs they play for.
Same can be said for Aurier (Tottenham), Bailly (Manchester United) and even Rihad Mahrez (Manchester City) who struggled to finish the first half of the season at Leicester City before his big move to the current Premier League champions.
There is a lesson here for Nigerian players. To avoid this type of snub, they must start aiming to play for the top European giants.
That’s how they can get into XIs like this and maybe even get a crack at winning the African Player of the Year award.