Having won the Fifa Player of The Year and the Ballon d’Or in 1995, George Tawlon Manneh Oppong Weah has been the only African soccer player to achieve this feat to date.
Popularly known as Gearge Weah, the 51-year-old also became the first African footballer to become an elected head of state after winning Liberia’s presidential election in 2018.
However, this article seeks to focus more on which African football player can be the next Ballon d’Or winner, and not a head of state.
Given their recent displays on the pitch, these are the top three African players who have the wherewithal to follow in George Weah's footsteps.
Mohamed Salah – Liverpool FC
Undoubtedly Africa’s soccer talisman at the moment, Mohamed Salah Ghaly seems to be the first on every pundit’s list to be the second African player in history to win the Ballon d’Or.
Popularly known as Mo Salah, the 26-year-old Egypt international stunned the world during the 2017/18 season with the scintillating performances he displayed in the English Premier League (EPL) and the UEFA Champions League (UCL).
His versatility in attacking positions, coupled with his blistering pace and sublime finishing, made him the linchpin of Liverpool FC’s successes in the 2017/18 season.
If he replicates the same accolade-laden season in 2018/19, he will definitely win the coveted Ballon d’Or prize.
To give readers a clearer perspective of why he is the premier candidate to be the second African player to be world best, let’s look at a few accolades he racked up for himself in the 2017/18 season.
His 32-goal-tally during that EPL season made him the first African player to score above 30 goals in the Premier League. He also snatched the Premier League’s Golden Boot Award from the prolific Harry Kane during that season.
Furthermore, he broke the record of being the only player to win the most Premier League Player of the Month award 3 times, winning it in November 2017, February 2018, and March 2018 respectively.
Interestingly, he is the first player to outscore three Premier League teams. With teams such as Swansea City, Huddersfield Town, and West Brom scoring 28, 28, and 31 goals respectively at the end of that season, Mo Salah’s firepower was more than the effort of these teams during that season.
Away from the EPL, his 11 goals during the 2017/18 Champions League campaign made him have the most goals by an African player in a UCL season.
Since he only joined Liverpool FC from AS Roma in 2017 after a 42 million-euro transfer, he became the first Liverpool FC player to score the most goals in a debut season after netting 44 goals.
There are many other records he broke in just a single season, but I just stated the most relevant ones to re-emphasize my point.
It is quite obvious that he can easily follow in Weah’s footsteps to be the next African player to win the Ballon d’Or.
Egyptians seem to adore Salah’s performance on the pitch, and his humility off the pitch. At the age of 26, it will be interesting to see him as Egyptian president in about 30 years time. By then, he would have completed the 'Weah-ification' process by going on from Ballon d’or winner to president just like George Weah did.
Sadio Mane – Liverpool FC
As a teammate of the aforementioned player, Sadio Mane and Mo Salah have become the thriving force of Liverpool FC’s attack.
Mane is an attacking midfielder with speed, creativity, flair, and nimble feet. The 26-year-old Senegal international has proved a nightmare for defenders since joining Liverpool from Southampton in 2016, for a fee of about 40 million euros.
Mane could easily be a contender for Ballon d’Or, but a statement made by Chealsea’s Eden Hazard seems to apply to him; "I think, in football now, if you want to win something like the Ballon d’Or or to be the top-scorer, you need to be selfish. But I’m not like this, not at all. I’m just who I am".
Just like Hazard, Mane has the ability to dribble and be selfish, but he prefers to distribute the ball to teammates. At least his selfless acts cause a distraction to opponents, since defenders cannot predict when he will attack.
Overall, if he ups his game, he can be a contender to follow in Weah’s footsteps.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang- Arsenal FC
For some reason, I just like how his name sounds. It’s unique, and just one of those names you can’t forget.
Aubameyang was a goal threat at Borussia Dortmund before joining Arsenal in January 2018 for a fee around 63 million euros.
The 29-year-old Gabon international seems to have mysteriously lost his form after the transfer to Arsenal. I guess he will take time to fit in.
His speed and knack for goals seem to be his mantra, so he can still rely on these traits to be a force to reckon with in the Premier League.
Despite his recent average performances, I put him on this list because he just moved to a new club a few months ago. But if he can rediscover his form like he did at his former club, he can be a major contender for the Ballon d’Or.
Coincidentally, Aubameyang is the only one who can follow in Weah’s footsteps 100%. Both he and Weah played under Manager Arsene Wenger during their careers, they are all African, and they all play as strikers.
Salah, Mane, and Aubameyang have the potential to win the Ballon d’Or. However, with players like Messi, Ronaldo, Hazard, and Neymar still in the game, Mo Salah seems to be the only African player who can snatch the award in the near future.