JOHANNESBURG, South Africa December 22 – Ivory Coast midfielder Yaya Toure was named 2011 CAF Footballer of the Year in Ghana Thursday just 24 hours after helping Manchester City defeat Stoke City 3-0 and stay top of the English Premier League.
Toure, a physically imposing 28-year-old younger brother of City defender Kolo, finished ahead of Ghana and Marseille midfielder Andre Ayew and Mali and Barcelona midfielder Seydou Keita in a vote among Africa-based national coaches.
Title holder and Cameroon and Anzhi Makhachkala striker Samuel Eto’o was eliminated Wednesday from the race to be crowned the best footballer on the continent along with Senegal and Lille striker Moussa Sow.
Yaya has been a key figure in the rise of Manchester City from Premier League also-rans to title contenders and FA Cup winners with the Ivorian scoring the goals that beat Manchester United in the semi-finals and Stoke City in the final.
He was also a pivotal figure as Ivory Coast finished the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers as the only country with a perfect record having defeated Rwanda, Burundi and Benin home and away.
Toure began his professional career 10 years ago with Belgian outfit Beveren and also played in the Ukraine, Greece, France and for global giants Barcelona before moving to north-west England.
He is only the second Ivorian after Chelsea striker Didier Drogba to win the highest CAF individual award and thanked his family and City team-mates during a short speech at State House in the Ghana capital Accra.
Ayew was hoping to emulate famous father Abedi ‘Pele’ Ayew, winner of the award three consecutive times from 1991 and a member of the Marseille team that lifted the 1993 UEFA Champions League.
After loan spells with several French clubs, 21-year-old Ayew has established a first-team place with Marseille and scored the equaliser in a heroic triumph at Borrussia Dortmund this month that secured a Champions League last-16 place.
He helped Ghana qualify impressively for the 2012 Cup of Nations, which kicks off next month in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, and his turn will surely come to be crowned king of African football.
While not a regular first choice amid the galaxy of stars at reigning World, European and Spanish champions Barcelona, Keita often appears as a second-half substitute with telling effect.
He fell out with Mali coach Alain Giresse only to make peace at a crucial stage of the Cup of Nations qualifiers and helped the ‘Eagles’ secure a third consecutive appearance at the African showcase.