The five-man shortlist for the 2018 BBC African Footballer of the Year award has been announced.
This year's nominees are Medhi Benatia (Morocco), Kalidou Koulibaly (Senegal), Sadio Mane (Senegal), Thomas Partey (Ghana) and Mohamed Salah (Egypt).
The vote opened on Saturday, 17 November at 19:00 GMT and closes on Sunday, 2 December at 20:00.
The result will be revealed in a programme on BBC World News on Friday, 14 December at 17:30.
The shortlist has been compiled by a panel of African football experts.
Liverpool forward Salah won last year's award, with previous winners including Jay-Jay Okocha, Michael Essien, Didier Drogba, Yaya Toure and Riyad Mahrez.
Juventus centre-back Benatia, 31, won his fourth consecutive league title this year - two with Bayern Munich and two with Juve - and captained Morocco at this summer's World Cup.
Napoli defender Koulibaly, 27, played his part in his club's battle with Juve for the Serie A title, including the winner against the eventual champions in the run-in. He played all 270 minutes for Senegal in the World Cup.
Liverpool forward Mane, 26, also played in all of Senegal's World Cup games, captaining his country in two and scoring against Japan. He was the joint-second top scorer in last season's Champions League - with 10 goals for Liverpool, including one in the 3-1 defeat by Real Madrid in the final.
Atletico Madrid midfielder Partey, 25, established himself as a first-team regular for Diego Simeone's side, including a late appearance as a substitute in the Europa League final win over Marseille. He scored in international friendlies for Ghana against Japan and Iceland.
Liverpool forward Salah, 26, won the Premier League Golden Boot with 32 goals in May and, like Mane, scored 10 Champions League strikes in their run to the final. He scored both of Egypt's World Cup goals - 40% of their all-time total at the tournament.
Who is your BBC African Footballer of the Year 2018?
Thank you for voting. The winner of BBC African Footballer of the Year will be announced on Sunday, 14 December.
Merci d’avoir voté. Le vainqueur du prix BBC Footballeur Africain de L’année sera annoncé Dimanche 14 Décembre 2018.
(Goal.com) The Juventus defender is back in the Morocco squad that will be aiming for their maiden victory over the Indomitable Lions
Juventus and Morocco center-back Medhi Benatia has admitted that they are under pressure for three points against Cameroon in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Cup (Afcon) qualifier in Casablanca on Friday.
Morocco are yet to beat Cameroon in the last 11 meetings. The Indomitable Lions boast of a better head to head record with six victories with five matches ending in draws.
“The pressure is mostly for victory; whether it is Cameroon or another team,” Benatia was quoted as saying by Camfoot.
“We have a quality group. We are lucky to have young players with big potential. Cameroon are also on a good team. We play at home. We are able to pose problems to this team and end this campaign.”
Benatia is back into the Morocco squad for the first time having last doned the national team jersey in June, 2018 during the Fifa World Cup. He missed the last three Afcon qualifiers.
Besides being pressed to break the jinx by beating Cameroon, Herve Renard’s Morocco are also keen to claim top spot with a win.
Victory would see the Atlas Lions assume a two-point lead of Group B ahead of the last round of qualifiers.
“We wanted to put in a good performance and we did that tonight”
Medhi Benatia was a key component of the Juventus defence that kept a clean sheet in the visit to Milan on Sunday evening. His handball did lead to the penalty that was squandered by Gonzalo Higuain in the first half but the defender barely put a foot wrong during the match.
“I’m glad about the performance and the win,” he said after the game.
“It was nice to be part of such a prestigious fixture. Yesterday I was getting a massage with Cristiano [Ronaldo] and [Daniele] Rugani and I saw it being said on TV that I often mess up in big games, so I wanted to show that I can be relied upon.
“It was important for us to bounce back after the Manchester United match. We wanted to put in a good performance and we did that tonight. Playing against Higuain, a good friend of mine, was an added incentive.”
AC Milan have reportedly started to consider joining the race to sign Juventus defender Mehdi Benatia.
The 31-year-old has spent the last three years representing the Italian champions, but the centre-back has been restricted to just five appearances in Serie A and the Champions League this season.
That has allegedly resulted in interest from Manchester United and Arsenal - who could be in the market for a new defender in January - but according to Sport Mediaset, Milan are also monitoring the situation.
Gennaro Gattuso's side require a replacement for the injured Mattia Caldara, and that could see a loan bid made for Morocco international Benatia.
The report suggests that Milan would have to commit to paying a €15m (£13.1m) fee for a permanent transfer at the end of the season.
Benatia has also played for Udinese and Roma in Italy's top flight, while three years were spent contracted to Bayern Munich.
Around 5 years ago, nobody would have expected Morocco to qualify for the world cup. Cameroon and Côte d'Ivoire were the powerhouses of African football, possessing the likes of Samuel Eto'o and Didier Drogba, but as time progressed the Moroccans have slowly established a competitive squad. Part of the reason for their recent success has been the emergence of young Moroccan players in Europe's top flight leagues.
Achraf Hakimi, born in Madrid, joined Real Madrid's youth set-up at the tender age of 8 and made his professional debut for the club 11 years later. Zinedine Zidane decided to call up the youngster to the Los Blancos squad as a backup for Dani Carvajal, and he quickly impressed all with his defensive skills when needed. The 20-year-old is currently on loan at Borussia Dortmund, where he already has 3 assists.
Hakim Ziyech, a more prominent Moroccan player, has graced the Eredivisie with his presence. The Dutch-Moroccan player rose through Heerenveen's youth academy before going on to be a vital player in the first team. Just 25 years old, Ziyech is already one of Ajax's star players, scoring 22 goals in just over 70 club appearances.
Another Moroccan rising through Ajax's first team set-up is Noussair Mazraoui. Born in Liederdrop, Mazraoui made over 50 appearances for Jong Ajax (Ajax's youth team) before breaking into the professional squad. This season, Mazraoui has become the club's starting right-back and has even gone on to score a goal against Benfica in the Champions League.
Although not very young in terms of a footballing career, the center-back duo of Romain Saïss and Medhi Benatia have been tearing it up in Europe. Saïss roamed around France, representing Le Havre and Angers SCO before becoming an integral part of Wolverhampton Wanderer's EFL Championship win and promotion to the Premier League.
Benatia, on the other hand, racked up just about 80 appearances for Udinese before spells at Roma, Bayern Munich, and Juventus established him as one of the world's best defenders.
Head coach Hervé Renard certainly has a lot of potential and experienced players at his disposal, and the Moroccan team should be strong contenders for next year's Africa Cup of Nation tournament in Cameroon.
(BBC Sport) Juventus defender Mehdi Benatia has been named in the Morocco squad for the first time since the World Cup in Russia.
Morocco coach Herve Renard has announced a 26-man squad for the Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Cameroon on 16 November.
The Atlas Lions will also travel to play Tunisia four days later in a friendly.
Benatia, 31, has missed the Atlas Lions last three Nations Cup qualifiers.
He decided to concentrate on his club commitments in Italy with the return of Leonardo Bonucci to Juventus.
So far this season Benatia has played just five times in the in all competitions for the Italian champions.
There is also a recall for Celta Vigo's Sofiane Boufal for the first time since before the World Cup in Russia.
Boufal came on as a substitute for Morcco in a pre-World Cup friendly against Uzbekistan in February and then failed to make the squad for the finals in Russia.
He has played nine times in Spain's La Liga so far this season scoring twice.
The squad also confirms a first call-up for Netherlands-born Oussama Idrissi after he decided to play international football for Morocco.
His club in the Netherlands AZ Alkmaar had already announced his inclusion in Morocco coach Herve Renard's plans on its website.
The 22-year-old has played for Netherlands at various youth levels but is eligible for Morocco through his parents.
A win for Morocco against Cameroon will put them one point away from qualifying for the finals next year from Group B.
Cameroon qualify automatically as hosts meaning there is only one qualifying place available from the group that also includes Malawi and Comoros.
The Atlas Lions are in pole position to advance despite being held to a 2-2 draw in Comoros last time out and only beating the same opponents 1-0 with an injury time goal three days earlier.
Goalkeepers: Munir El-Kajoui (Malaga, Spain), Yassine Bounou (Girona, Spain) Ahmed Reda (Wydad Casablanca)
Defenders: Medhi Benatia (Juventus. Italy), Nabil Dirar (Fenerbahce, Turkey), Manuel da Costa (Istanbul Basaksehir, Turkey), Romain Saïss (Wolverhampton Wanderers, England), Achraf Hakimi (Borussia Dortmund, Germany), Noussair Mazraoui (Ajax, Netherlands), Oualid El Hajjam (Amiens, France), Achraf Dari (Wydad Casablanca)
Midfielders: Hakim Ziyech (Ajax, Netherlands), Mbark Boussoufa (no club), Karim El Ahmadi (Al-Ittihad, Saudi Arabia), Younes Belhanda (Galatasaray, Turkey), Nordin Amrabat (Al Nassr, Saudi Arabia), Faycal Fajr (Caen, France), Youssef Ait Bennasser (Monaco, France), Abdelilah Hafidi 30 (Raja Casablanca), Sofiane Boufal (Celta Vigo, Spain), Amine Harit (Schalke 04, Germany)
Forwards: Oussama Idrissi (AZ Alkmaar, Netherlands), Khalid Boutaib (Yeni Malatyaspor, Turkey), Youssef En-Nesyri (Leganes, Spain), Ayoub El Kaabi (Hebei China Fortune, China), Walid Azaro (Al Ahly, Egypt)
By Football Italia staff
Juventus centre-back Medhi Benatia admits “I’m struggling playing a game every now and then” and “we’ll see what happens” in January.
The Moroccan played 90 minutes against Cagliari on Saturday, but he’s played only four Serie A games so far this season.
“I’m struggling playing a game every now and then,” Benatia told La Stampa.
“Last year I did well because I had more consistency, unfortunately I don’t have it this year. It’s part of my job, and I work to always be ready, but it’s not a pleasant situation.
“It’s normal that I’m not enjoying it, I’m 31 and I want to play as much as possible.
“January? Let’s see what happens, how I’m used, if Juve still need me, if [Coach Max] Allegri wants me…
“I’m available to the team, as long as I’m here I’ll give my all. If I’m needed in the Champions League I’ll be ready.”