The 'African Player of the Year' is an award given by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) to the most outstanding footballer from the continent in a calendar year.
The winner of this prestigious award is decided by a panel of judges, the press, national team coaches, and captains of the 54 approved CAF nations.
Yaya Toure (Ivory Coast) and Samuel Eto'o (Cameroon) are the players with the most wins. Both players have bagged the accolade on a record four occasions each.
Senegal forward Sadio Mane is the most recent recipient of the CAF award. The Bayern Munich star beat former Liverpool teammate Mohammed Salah and compatriot Edouard Mendy to win the award for the second time in a row.
Since its inception in 1992, a lot of great African footballers have won this award. Yet, like every other award in football, there are some notable African stars who, despite their illustrious careers, did not receive it.
Without further ado, let's take a look at three elite African footballers who never won the prestigious CAF Player of the Year award.
#3 John Obi Mikel
John Obi Mikel is one of the most decorated Nigerian and African footballers of all time. The Nigerian midfielder was a household name in his heyday. He was one of the most decent and efficient holding midfielders during his prime.
Mikel is known for his days at Chelsea, where he spent 11 years and won 11 major honors. He started his career playing as an attacking midfielder, showing promise in the 2005 FIFA U20 World Cup.
He was the second-best player in the tournament, behind Argentina's Lionel Messi. However, under the tetulage of Jose Mourinho at Chelsea, he switched to a more defensive style of play.
Mikel won almost all major honors at club level. He won two league titles, four FA Cups, the UEFA Champions League and the Europa League, amongst other domestic cup competitions.
The 37-year-old was also successful on the international stage. He won the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) in 2013 and played in two World Cups (2010, 2014).
Despite his success, Mikel never won the CAF African Player of the Year award. His closest claim to the award was in 2013 when he finished as a runner-up, behind Yaya Toure.
#2 Micheal Essien
Michael Essien is regarded as one of the best talents to have emerged from Ghana. The former Chelsea star was one of the best defensive midfielders in the game during his prime.
Like Mikel, Essien had his best years at Stamford Bridge. He joined the Blues in 2005 from Olympique Lyon, playing a key role in the club's success in the mid 2000's.
A strong, energetic, and ball-winning midfielder, Essien could play as a centre-midfielder or a right-back. He had a knack for scoring volleys and screamers.
He made a total of 256 appearances for the Blues, scoring 25 goals and providing 20 assists. He also won nine major honors in nine seasons at the Bridge.
Essien was active for the Black Stars of Ghana between 2002-2014. He was a member of the Ghana team that finished as runners-up at the 2010 AFCON.
Essien made to the stage of last three nominees for the CAF Player of the Year award for five consecutive seasons (2005-2009). However, he never got the title. He came closest when he finished at second place, behind Federic Kanoute (Mali) in 2007.
#1 Austin 'Jay-Jay' Okocha
Austin 'Jay-Jay' Okocha is regarded as the best Nigerian footballer ever and one of the grestest footballers to emerge from Africa. Yet, surprisingly, he never won the prestigious CAF award.
An attacking midfielder known for his flair, technique, tricks, and dribbling skills, Okocha was a joy to watch on the field of play. He was also known for his long range shots and powerful free-kicks.
The Nigerian legend played in Europe for top clubs like Eintracht Frankfurt, Fernabache, Paris Saint-Germain, and Bolton Wanderers.
He helped Bolton Wanderers survive relegation in the 2002-03 season and also captained them to the finals of the 2004 League Cup.
Okocha also had successes on the international stage. He won the AFCON in 1994, represented Nigeria at three World Cups (1994, 1998, 2002), and scored 15 goals in 75 apperances for the Super Eagles.
Despite his numerous talents, Okocha was often inconsistent. His closest finish to the CAF award was a runners-up position in 1998, behind Mustapha Hadji (Morocco). He, however, won the BBC's version of the award in 2003 and 2004.