Serie A player of the season: Africans in last 5 years

Serie A player of the season: Africans in last 5 years
Photo by Icon Sport

The 2023/24 Serie A season has ended with its winners and losers, but there are few African players in the Player of the Season awards.

Despite the exploits of great African players like George Weah and Samuel Eto'o in the Serie A, there have been questions over why African players struggle to make it into the Player of the Season awards.

In the last ten years, African players have had good turnouts in the elite Italian league, but it seems there is not plenty of confidence in their abilities by club owners and managers.

However, recent exploits by these players have started changing the narrative. For instance, Victor Osimhen (2022/23) who is set to leave Napoli and Ademola Lookman (2023/24) have given more reasons why African players should get more opportunities.

So, how many African players have won accolades during the Player of the Season awards? We give you players who have managed the feat in the last five years.

Player of the Season awards

The Player of the Season awards come under different categories by the Lega Serie A. The categories include Best Goalkeeper, Best Defender, Best Midfielder, Best Striker, Best Young Player (Under-23), and Most Valuable Player of a particular Serie A, Coppa Italia, and Supercoppa Italiana season.

The awards were officially instituted in the 2018/19 season and have seen only a few African players scoop any of the awards.

Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli -2018/19) – Best Defender

Player of the season - Kalidou Koulibaly
Photo by Icon Sport

The 2018/19 season was one of near misses for Kalidou Koulibaly as he led the pursuit of a title for Napoli.

The Partenopei were under the shadow of clubs like Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan, but they gave a good account of themselves in the 2018/19 season.

The performance of the Senegalese saw him nominated for one of the awards in the Player of the Season ceremony. He picked up the Best Defender award.

Koulibaly played 35 Serie A games, missing three due to Red and yellow card suspensions. In all the Serie A matches, he played less than 90 minutes in two games (81 minutes in the 1-0 away loss to Inter and 84 minutes in a 4-1 home win over the Nerazzurri).

In the 1-0 loss, he received a red card that led to him missing two games, and in the return leg, he received a yellow card that ruled him out of their last game of the season.

Koulibaly also led Napoli to the quarter-final of the Europa League (where they lost 3-0 agg to Arsenal) and the Coppa Italia (Lost 2-0 to AC Milan).

He led Napoli to finish second in the Serie A, 11 points behind Juventus.

Victor Osimhen (Napoli  2021/22) – Best Young Player

Player of the Season - Victor Osimhen
Photo by Icon Sport

The 2021/22 season was the second in Italy for Victor Osimhen, and the former Wolfsburg player started showing signs of his immense talent.

The former Wolfsburg player had plenty of injuries, as the Partenopei continued their quest to wrest power from the Serie A traditional power holders.

It was the season where he copped the cheekbone injury that kept him out for several weeks and denied him the opportunity of adding to his goal tally.

It was a torrid season for Osimhen, who somehow managed to wangle his way into the Player of the Season awards. Despite the disappointment with the results for his team, Osimhen had something to cheer.

Osimhen played 27 Serie A games and scored 14 goals with five assists. The Super Eagles forward missed 11 league games and also led Napoli to the round of 32 in the Europa League, where they lost to Barcelona.

In the Player of the Season awards, he bagged the Young Player of the Season, leading Napoli to a third-place finish, seven points behind AC Milan and five behind Inter Milan.

Victor Osimhen (Napoli – 2022/23) Best Striker

Player of the Season - Osimhen
Photo by Icon Sport

If Osimhen was still a fledgling in the 2021/22 season, the young buck came of age the following term. He shocked the world, breaking records and doing the unbelievable in a season that elevated Napoli to a pedestal last seen 33 years ago.

The Super Eagles bagged the Best Striker gong in the Player of the Season awards, with many believing he was denied the Most Valuable Player that went to his teammate Khvicha Kvaratskhelia.

The consensus was that if not for Osimhen’s goals, Napoli would not have won Serie A.

Osimhen played 32 Serie A games for Napoli and scored 26 goals to become the Cappocannoniere. He added five assists to his goal involvement and scored another five in the Champions League.

Among the records that Osimhen broke that season to be included in the Player of the Season awards include:

First African player to win Serie A golden boot

Before the 2022/23 season, no African player had won the Golden Boot, but Osimhen laid that record to rest. He scored on the season's final day to bring his season’s tally to 26, thus becoming the Serie A top scorer.

In the 125-year history of the Serie A, no African player has won the Golden Boot.

Second player To Win The Serie A Title And Golden Boot In The Same Season

In the history of the Golden Boot, only Zlatan Ibrahimovic had ever finished the season as Golden Boot and Scudetto winner in the same season.

Osimhen joined the Swede in that category to become only the second player to manage the feat. The 26 goals he scored helped Napoli win their first Serie A title in 33 years.

The Highest African Goalscorer Of All Time In The Serie A

George Weah held the record for the highest African goalscorer in the Serie A with 46 goals, but Osimhen thrashed it when he scored against Fiorentina in a 1-0 win. He added three more goals after that against Bologna and Sampdoria.

These accomplishments surprised many during the Player of the Season award that denied Osimhen the ultimate individual prize.

Osimhen also won the African Footballer of the Year award.

Name Club Season Award Minutes played
Kalidou Koulibaly Napoli 2018/19 Best Defender 4305
Victor Osimhen Napoli 2021/22 Best Young Player 2310
Victor Osimhen Napoli 2022/23 Best Striker 3021

Africans who made the Serie A Team of the Season

Player of the Season - Achraf Hakimi
Photo by Icon Sport

There is no official Serie A Team of the Season award, but many organisations have drawn up their versions of the Team of the Season, and we have used the various collections to pick players that made it across the board.

Team of the season

# Name Club Position Season
1 Kalidou Koulibaly Napoli Defender 2018/19
2 Sofyan Amrabat Hellas Verona Midfield 2019/20
3 Achraf Hakimi Inter Milan Right-back 2020/21
4 Franck Kessie AC Milan Midfield 2020/21
5 Victor Osimhen Napoli Forward 2022/23
6 Victor Osimhen Napoli Forward 2023/24

This article was most recently revised and updated 3 weeks ago

Chooka Izuegbuna is a Sports Journalist with 20 years of experience in print, TV and Radio. He has worked with some of the top media houses in Nigeria, including NTA Network, Channels TV, TVC, Silverbird TV and MITV. Chooka broke his sports reporting teeth with The Game Football Weekly in 2003 as a cartoonist and reporter. Chooka has a passion for football and has been a fan of Enugu Rangers (over 30 years) and Real Madrid (Since 1996).