Lobi Stars coach Gbenga Ogunbote believes for an African player to win the Ballon d’Or, there must be improved performances at tournaments like the World Cup.
The world’s second-largest continent has seen an increase in talent plying their trade in some of the biggest clubs and despite their stellar performances, it has not been enough to give them a claim as the world’s best.
George Weah remains the only African to win the accolade back in 1995. There have been some Africans who have been nominated for the top prize such as Samuel Eto’o, Didier Drogba, Yaya Toure, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Riyad Mahrez, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, but all fell short.
The farthest an African country has come at the World Cup is the quarter-finals through Cameroon in 1990, Senegal in 2002 and Ghana in 2010. No African player has ever finished as the top scorer or the best player in the tournament.
“Africa has now come of age to win the world’s best, but I believe if Africa improves in tournaments like the World Cup and other big tournaments, then we will be reckoned with,” Ogunbote told Goal.
“If you look at the trends of events, we are coming up irrespective of the country. We can at least say that this African player can stand side by side with a player from another country and with this development it shows there is hope in the future.
“It won’t be easy, but when you look at performances of players like Mane and Salah, they have been wonderful but they are not coming close to it so it tells you that the prerequisites have been bigger. No one believed Messi would win the last world’s best but you look at factors like the goodwill he had already.
“I know there is hope with the kind of play seen from Africans. We can contend and contest with anybody. When for instance the Premier league loses African players, it shows the team is incomplete and that is a sign that we can rule the world.”
Ogunbote has also suggested there needs to be better financial backing from African football federations if the reality of winning the Ballon d’Or is to come to pass.
“It’s all about planning and financial backing. If we can do it well, we will be there,” he said.
“If you compare federations, our planning differs. Some have huge financial packages while others do not have. Some don’t plan well. These things need to be put in place to be able to contest.”