The nominees for 2018 BBC African Footballer of the Year Awards have been released. All shortlisted stars deserve to win it. Egypt international winger Mohamed Salah lifted the coveted award in 2017. This year, he will face stiff competitions from other upcoming stars from the continent. Nigerians are already making noise but the shortlisted stars might answer the question of why. Take a look at five African stars shortlisted for the award this year.

5. Mehdi Benatia- JUV/MOR

Morocco international Mehdi Benatia is slowly getting more game time at Juventus. The former Bayern Munich defender was in the team that lifted Serie A and Coppa Italia last season. He also won the Bundesliga and DFB-Pokal during his time at Allianz Arena.

The 31-year-old played a key role for his country Morocco in Russia 2018 World Cup. They lost to a late own goal in the first group game against Iran and we all remember they could’ve easily beaten Spain and Portugal too. The North Africans were unlucky but they won many hearts. On this list, he is the most decorated and probably the easiest pick.

4. Kalidou Koulibaly- NAP/SEN

Napoli central defender Kalidou Kuolibaly is currently one of the best in his position in the World. The Senegalese center-back has started where he left last season for club and country. He was a key player in Maurizio Sarri team that pushed Juventus all the way to the end in Serie A race. He scored a bullet header against the eventual champions to cause serious jitters in Turin. He also played every game for his country in Russia World Cup 2018.

3. Sadio Mane- LIV/SEN

Senegal almost reached the last 16 in 2018 World Cup in Russia. In fact, it came down to the number of yellow cards between the West Africans and Japan. Sadio Mane scored against the Samurai Blue. He was the captain and he led his team well on the pitch.

In June, he scored against Real Madrid in the Champions League final but he could not do it alone against such a good team. He finished with 10 goals in the competition. In 2017, Salah outshined him in all areas, but this year, he has started the season well. He is certainly ripe for this award.

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