Andre Ayew tops Joy Sports Best 20 Ghanaian footballers in 2015; Asamoah Gyan ranked 15th


Welcome to the Joy Sports’ choice of the Ghana’s top 20 footballers for 2015. Our panel of experts compiled a countdown of the best players in the calendar year.

Ranking footballers might be as preposterous as trying to predict elections in Ghana – who is to say if a decent goalkeeper (Razak Brimah) is better than a fading midfielder (Stephen Oduro) or a re-emerging striker (Nathaniel Asamoah) – but it’s the New Year and it’s fun, so give us your predictions in the comments section.

Lists like these are always a problem, largely because of perspectives. This was a year which saw loads of footballing action from the African Cup of Nations to intruiging finish on the last day of the Ghana Premier League. And there was also a decent Ghanaian representation in the world’s major leagues.

At the end of this text, you can find a link to the video version.

And so, we begin!
20 – RICHARD OFORI 
Richard Ofori was one of the revelations in the 2014/2015 Ghana Premier League season. The Wa All Stars man has been around for some time but finally made his breakthrough after fine displays for his club side. So irresistible was his form that he earned a callup into the Black Stars. Ofori is currently the number one for the local Black Stars and the Black Meteors. He commands his area very well and his quick reflexes have aided the cause of both club and country on several occasions. Currently a hot commodity on the local scene, it won’t take long before the keeper lands a lucrative contract out of the country.

19 – AFRIYIE ACQUAH

Not your usual source of goals but a sure bet for energy and legwork in the midfield. The workaholic midfielder has been in impressive form for both club and country this calendar year. In 10 competitive matches for the Black Stars, Acquah started in seven, providing the needed grit and midfield-shielding for the team. A summer move to Turin club Torino has also aided his cause, with regular outings week in week out. Despite a few off the field issues which arguably were blown out of proportion, this has been a stellar year for the former Parma man. A regular starting berth for the Black Stars and a dream move to Torino perfectly sums this up.

18 – MUBARAK WAKASO
Popularly known as a regular collector of yellow cards, Wakaso has added a new dimension to his game that’s turned the growing talent into one of the most consistent players in the Black Stars set up. The Las Palmas man has added a wide range of passes to his game in addition to his standard aggressive play. And he’s become a mainstay in the Stars midfield. Add this to his set piece expertise which have fetched him two goals in 2015 in national colours and it marks a good turn for the former Ashantigold man. Despite a torrid loan spell at Celtic in Scotland, coupled with a failure to earn a regular place in the Las Palmas set up, Wakaso has been outstanding for his country.

17 –  EBENEZER ASSIFUAH

Assifuah has been touted for greatness ever since he won the golden shoe award at the 2013 Under 20 FIFA World Cup. Likened to Asamoah Gyan, the 22-year old has consistently shown Ghanaians his quality with top notch performances and goals for club side FC Sion in Switzerland. The former Liberty man helped his side reach the knockout phase of the UEFA Europa League, the highlight of which was a memorable goal at Anfield and to be precise, the famous Kop end. Despite being called up for the Black Stars, he is yet to make his debut. Yet, his impressive 2015 should earn him a role in the team sooner rather than later.

16 – YAW YEBOAH 
The fleet-footed midfielder was a delight to watch during Ghana’s campaign at the African Youth Championship in Senegal, where his impressive displays earned him the Golden Ball. The team qualified for the World Youth Championships as a result, where they were quite lacklustre. Even then, Yeboah was one of the livewires of with his incredible close control and dribbling ability. He calmly converted from the spot to score Ghana’s first goal at the tournament against Austria with the game heading for a Ghana defeat. The Right to Dream Academy product is currently on loan at Lille. A great year has been capped with a nomination for the best youth African player of the year in the upcoming CAF awards.

15 – ASAMOAH GYAN

The Ghana captain’s biggest football moment, arguably, came at the 2015 African Cup. Seriously down with malaria, Gyan was not even sure about starting against Algeria in the group stages. He was a passenger in the game until the final moments, when he showed his credentials with a crucial, dizzying run that finished with a stunning goal to get Ghana a win. That goal, perhaps, was the most important of the campaign, and without it, the Stars may not have made the final. He could not become the first skipper, however, to lead his team to a first trophy since 1982. Later in 2015, he made a shicking move from the UAE to the Chinese Super League. He has not been very visible while there, and only games in the national colours have given him prominence.

14- EBENEZER OFORI

The Ghana youth international’s biggest bit of news was being named the 2015 Swedish League Best Midfielder. It was a big deal in a league filled with several breakthrough talents. The 20-year-old AIK midfielder beat competition from Daniel Sjolund from league champions IFK Norrkoping and Elfsborg’s Viktor Claesson. One to keep an eye on.

13 – KOJO POKU

Cast in the mould of Yaya Toure, the  23-year old has caught the eye of many in the United States with his all-round action. The former Kotoko youth player contributed six goals and seven assists for his club, New York City FC. Combining his physical presence with technique, Poku was quite unplayable. So impressive was his form that reports emerged he was considered for the United States national team. But any rumors of playing for the USMNT were quickly dashed when made his debut for Ghana in a friendly against Canada. He has often been headlined in a team which involves European greats such as David Villa, Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo.

12 – SEIDU SALIFU

In 2015, the former national U-20 midfielder won his first career league title with Tunisian giants Club Africain. In the process, he started 26 out of 30 matches for the Reds. But he still failed to make the Black Stars squad. An ex-Wa All Stars man, Salifu was part of the Black Satellites team that won bronze at the FIFA Under 20 World Cup in 2013 and has never looked back since. He joined the Tunisians and has grown in leaps and bounds living up to his billing as the next Michael Essien. Salifu is versatile and could easily into a central defensive role. It will come as no surprise should Salifu be a regular in the Black Stars in the not distant future.

11 – ERIC OPOKU

The midfielder was one of the pillars in the AshantiGold team that ended their 19-year wait for a domestic league crown. The captain of the Miners was a bundle of energy in their engine room as he helped the Obuasi to a superb start in the league. Opoku dominated games, broke down play and initiated attacks from his midfield role offering assistance to the more offensive Bernard Morrison and Didier Kore. Aside his on-field heroics, Opoku was a real leader in the dressing room bringing together his side to fight for the league title while his love for Don Simon juice fetched his side a sponsorship deal for the Miners! How he failed to make the CHAN Black Stars team will forever remain a mystery…

10 – HARRISON AFFUL

Mr. Consistent has been one of the go-to men in the Black Stars in the past few years. And he was an ever-present in Avram Grant’s Black Stars of 2015. Many feared the full-back’s career was going downhill following the expiration of his contract at Tunisian giants Esperance but a move to MLS side Columbus Crew has allayed all fears. It’s been fun watching Harrison in the MLS, aiding his team to the final and being adjudged man of the match in some games on their way there. While European players move to the United States at the twilight of the careers, Harrison moved there while at the top of his game. His form has still been impressive for the Stars and should he maintain this form, it will take a colossal effort to displace him from the Stars set up.

9 – SAMUEL TETTEH
A dream Black Stars callup was the cherry on top of a wonderful year for the West Africa Football Academy (WAFA) attacker. Having featured for the national U-20s (Black Satellites), U-23s (Meteors) and the local Black Stars. The senior team was the last stop for the speedy winger. His impressive display in the World Cup against Argentina where he tore the Argentines to shreds with his pace and trickery. His debut Ghana Premier League campaign was truncated by various national team call ups but anytime he played, he was a class apart. Tetteh was once again one of the outstanding players in an abysmal local Black Stars (CHAN team) set up. His fantastic display earned him his first Black Stars call up in mid-November. A fine year all round for Tetteh and his development in the coming years is hugely awaited.

8 – MAHATMA OTOO
Often overlooked by the Black Stars, he has been consistently delivering the goods in Norway in 2015. The former Hearts of Oak captain played a leading role in his side’s return to the Norwegian top flight, bagging 13 crucial goals in the process. The highlight of this was the brace he scored to power Sogndal IF back to the Eliteserien as they beat rivals Hanefoss to confirm their promotion.  The striker last featured for the Black Stars in their 1-0 win over Algeria at the African Cup of Nations but should he continue this rich vein of form, it will hard to ignore him games in the national team.

7 – ABDUL ‘BABA’ RAHMAN
Rahman finally cemented his place with the Black Stars in 2015 in an impressive outing at the African Cup of Nations. His end of season form with German side Augsburg was even more convincing, earning him a £14 million (potentially rising to £22 million) move to English champions Chelsea. It has not been rosy for Rahman in London but his form prior to the move cannot be overlooked. Power and pace and most importantly ability to cross a ball have been the highlights of Rahman’s year. He will certainly add to his one assist for Chelsea. He’ll surely acclimatize to English football.

6- DANIEL NII ADJEI 
He straddled the fields of the local top flight for years while with Kotoko, and he was known as the maestro who conducted the Porcupines’ orchestra from the middle. Now, he’s taken that artistry to Central Africa, where, with TP Mazembe, Nii Adjei has helped them to win the African Champions League. The 26-year old has played, and been key, in DR Congo’s Super Ligue. And was used expeditiously at the African Champions League as well, and also featured at the Club World Cup. He was given a last minute callup for the Black Stars’ AFCON qualifier with Rwanda in September due to injuries to some regulars, but he is unlikely to get more. The attacking midfield position is clogged.

5- JEFFREY SCHLUPP

The Leicester wide man has been great for the Foxes in 2015, especially in the period before they started shocking the world in the Premier League. In May, he was named young player of the year, beating off competition from Matty James and Andrej Kramaric, while he also picked up the player’s player of the year prize — ahead of Leonardo Ulloa and Jamie Vardy. His fine form began at the beginning of the year when he starred in their miraculous escape from relegation under Nigel Pearson following a fantastic run of games. Often deployed as a left wing back during that spell, Schlupp combined great attacking instincts with defensive awareness to perform his role admirably. With the axing of Pearson, Leicester’s new manager Claudio Ranieri has also seen Schlupp shine. The player has alternated between left full back and left midfield. In all this, he has been a delight to watch using his pace much to his advantage. Schlupp is yet to convince many in the Black Stars colours but that notwithstanding, he will look back at 2015 with great pride.

4- NANA KWESI ASARE

The last days of 2015 came with news that Belgium are looking to naturalize the talented Ghanaian. A vice-captain at Gent, Nana Kwesi has repeatedly said he would love to play for Ghana. ANd his talent has never been in doubt. Now, with this bit of news, the 29-year old has said he is ready to play for Belgium. He has been much of a journey man, swapping between Dutch and Belgian clubs. He’s been at Royal Antwerp, Mechelen and Utrecht. But it is at Gent he has found his best form. The left-back has been a consistent figure for the Belgian side helping them reach the knockout stage of the UEFA Champions League for the first time in their history. Asare was an ever present in the side playing all six games. He also helped the team win their 2014/2015 Belgian league. He has matured greatly as a player and should he continue with this form, he could add to his five caps (friendlies) for Ghana.

3- JORDAN AYEW

Jordan’s place upfront in the Black Stars has been questioned for a considerable period of time. The argument is that he’s too nonchalant, lazy and does not pull his weight. 2015 is perhaps the year he finally shut everyone up. But before then, the then-Lorient man even lost his place to Kwasi Appiah in the Stars setup at the African Cup of Nations. However, he has responded in effective fashion to end the year as Ghana’s leading scorer for the year under review. Now with Aston Villa, he has played above himself and is currently one of the brightest spots in a struggling club team, despite having a slow start. Jordan’s pace and ability to take on his markers has been effective for both Ghana and the Villains. Five goals for Villa, and five for Ghana as well as ending the 2014/2015 Ligue 1 season with 12 goals is an impressive return for the 24 year old.

2- ADAM KWARASEY

The Portland Timbers man, irrespective of his differences with the handlers of the Black Stars, is still regarded as a Ghanaian eligible for a call-up. The Norwegian-born keeper has been the most in-form Ghanaian keeper in the 2015. A move to the MLS further strengthened this belief with a string of fantastic saves which propelled his side the to the MLS title. Kwarasey’s shot stopping skills have been his greatest asset till date and he produced one of these to claim the MLS save of the season award. Truly in the form of his life, the Black Stars must patch up whatever relationship problems exist immediately to get the best out of him.

1- ANDRE ‘DEDE’ AYEW:

The Swansea man has had some year. He began 2015 with Marseille, as one of their undroppable players. But he left just as the year started for the African Cup. He scored crucial goals and was his usual ebullient self as Ghana went to the final. Who can forget that important header he scored against South Africa that helped Ghana through the group stages? In the end, the most iconic moment at the tournament were his tears after losing the final. It made him stronger and he went back to France to an OM that was losing team, under Marcelo Bielsa. They did not finish well and he knew it was time to move on.

Cue speculation. Arsenal? Dortmund? Liverpool? Newcastle? Roma?

As it turned out, Swansea got him. The hype around the move was big. And delivered on the promise with a debut goal against Chelsea, another against Manchester United and four more before the end of the Year. His headers have been well-sought after for club and country, as have been his confidence and inspiration.

He’s grown up a bit more, too. Dede can be seen tracking back to help the defence where need be and most importantly putting in his head, and feet, to get goals.

Three goals for Ghana this calendar year in addition to his six goals in sixteen matches for Swansea marks an impressive year for the national team’s vice-captain. Dede has missed out narrowly to Yaya Toure on the BBC African Footballer of the Year award, but will hope the CAF Player of Year gong will be his when the ceremony comes around in the coming days.

– See more at: http://www.myjoyonline.com/sports/2016/January-2nd/video-.php#sthash.aGXgNZsk.dpuf

For more Ghana football news visit www.ghanasoccernet.com

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