By Monsurah Olatunji
Ex-international Emmanuel Amuneke has tipped his compatriot, Victor Osimhen, to scoop the 2023 CAF Player of the Year award after finishing as the only African player in the concluded Ballon d’Or top 10.
The 24-year-old has become one of the most prolific forwards in European football in the last twelve months, helping Napoli to its first Scudetto triumph in over three decades (33 years) and the quarterfinals of the UEFA Champions League.
The Nigerian also won the Golden Boot, scoring 26 goals and becoming the highest-scoring African in the league, and he was also named the best striker in the league. He has also been lethal for the national team finishing top scorer in qualifying for the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) with 10 goals.
Osimhen clinched the 8th spot at this year’s Ballon d’Or award, making history as the first Nigerian in the top ten, breaking Nwankwo Kanu’s 11th position record in 1997.
The Napoli striker also made the top 30 nominees for the FIFA The Best award and also on the 30-man list for the CAF Player of the Year award alongside Liverpool and Egypt forward Mohamed Salah, Manchester United and Cameroon goalkeeper Andre Onana, and Morocco right-back Achraf Hakimi.
Amuneke, who himself was named the African Player of the Year in 1994 believes Osimhen merits the award to become the first Nigerian to win the award since Nwankwo Kanu in 1999.
“There is no doubt about his character, in terms of his desire and zeal to achieve something, succeed and win,” Amuneke, who coached Osimhen while he was Nigeria’s Under-17 coach, told BBC Sport Africa.
“As a coach at youth level, that was something that made me admire him. That is one of the best [attributes] for a player to make it to the highest stage.
“We hope he wins the CAF award with what he has done for his club and the national team proud. “Regardless of not playing at the World Cup [held in Qatar last year], he has been able to establish himself as a worthy contender.”