EXCLUSIVE: The former Nigeria star has tipped the Ivorian for the prestigious African Player of the Year award but believes Chelsea are the team to beat in England
Jay-Jay Okocha believes Manchester City star Yaya Toure will miss out on the Premier League title to Chelsea, but backed him as the outstanding candidate to be named African Player of the Year.
Okocha, who spent five years in England with Bolton Wanderers and Hull City, is remembered as one of the greatest African players of his generation.
He still keeps a close eye on the Premier League and has tipped Toure to be awarded the prize for the best African player of the past 12 months as a result of his performances for City as they won the title last term.
“For me, Yaya Toure is the natural winner,” he told Goal. “I think the shortlist for the award shows that African football for the past two to three years has not really produced a lot of stars, because only two or three players have been consistent for the past five to six years: Yaya Toure, Samuel Eto’o and Didier Drogba.
“Now that Eto’o and Drogba have gone it looks like Yaya Toure is going to be the outstanding player. After him, I don’t think we’ve really produced the great stars in Africa.”
But while he expects Toure to be triumphant in the January ceremony, the former Nigeria international believes the Manchester City midfielder may miss out on adding a second straight Premier League winner’s medal come May.
“Chelsea look like the complete team,” added the 41-year-old. “They look like a good business model, they don’t care about anybody and they know how to grind out results.
“So at the moment I would say that Chelsea look like the team to beat.”
Okocha never managed to win the African Footballer of the Year award despite excelling with the likes of Eintracht Frankfurt, Fenerbahce, Paris Saint-Germain and Bolton over a consistent period.
And he admits that he thought he would take the award home in 1998 after leading Nigeria to the last 16 of the World.
“I thought I had a very good chance in ‘98, because I had a fantastic World Cup and a very good season as well.
“But I just think it wasn’t meant to be because I won the BBC African Footballer of the Year twice and had many chances of winning the African Footballer of the Year, so maybe some things are not meant to be.”
Jay-Jay Okocha is calling on fans to share their childhood sports photos, from their school football team to local sports club, in support of Western Union’s #PassForSchool campaign. For more information on PASS and #PassForSchool, click here.