Eto’o, Drogba or Essien?

The shortlist for the CAF African Footballer of the Year has been released and, judging from early press reaction, it looks like Barca and Cameroon international striker Samuel Eto’o is the favorite to win the award for the fourth time over Chelsea’s Didier Drogba and Michael Essien.

This is a really tough choice. All three are great players and, despite the fact that Drogba dives me, er, drives me nuts, I still have to admire a great player.

If recent form is any indication, Drogba should be a shoe in. He has been on fire for Chelsea, and he was instrumental in bringing the Ivory Coast to the World Cup, where they were strong opponents for both the Dutch and Argentina in the so called “Group of Death”. Plus, he led the Ivory Coast to the Nations Cup final. And lets not forget that Chelsea won the Prem last year (ugh, that was hard to type).

Eto’o had a great run last year with Barca to drive them to both a European Championship and a Spanish title, and he was La Liga’s top scorer. He was also the top scorer at the Nations Cup, but he did miss a penalty against (ironicly) the Ivory Coast that cost Cameroon a trip to the final. Also, Eto’o hasn’t played competitively since September due to injury. Combine that with the unfortunate fact that Cameroon failed to qualify for the World Cup, gives both Essien and Drogba a slight edge in my books.

For me this season, Essien has been the real eye opener. While not as flashy as Eto’o or Drogba, his contributions to both Chelsea and Ghana cannot be underestimated. I believe he is a more complete player than either Drogba or Eto’o and he has the rare ability to control a game and set the pace. While both Drogba and Eto’o can capitalize on opportunities, Essien is the kind of player who creates those opportunities. And Ghana’s form at the World Cup was especially impressive. Unfortunately, injury kept Essien out of the Nations Cup, which probably explains why Ghana did poorly. He’s that important. And for that reason, I cast my vote for Michael Essien.