Mali striker Frederic Kanoute was named African Footballer of the Year at an award ceremony in Lome, Togo on Friday, beating out the 2006 winner Didier Drogba of the Ivory Coast and Ghana?s Michael Essien in the polling of national coaches of Africa?s member associations.
Kanoute?s award came after a year in which he won two cup titles with his Spanish club Sevilla and played a leading role in helping Mali qualify for the finals, beating Togo away in their last group match.
Kanoute's credentials were strengthened by the victories with his Spanish club Sevilla in the UEFA Cup and domestic King's Cup.
Kanoute is the first European-born player to take the award. He played for his native France as a junior international before switching international allegiance in 2004 to Mali, his father's country.
Kanoute is only the second Malian to win the award since Salif Keita took the inaugural title in 1970.
It came just days after Mali were eliminated at the MTN Africa Cup of Nations finals in Ghana with Kanoute injured in their last game against the Ivory Coast on Tuesday.
Drogba had been nominated mainly on the strength of his form in the English league and European competition.
His goals kept Chelsea in the Premier League title race last season and also helped them lift the FA Cup, with the Ivorian notably scoring the only goal of the final against Manchester United at Wembley.
The award is voted by the national coaches of the 53 associations of the Confederation of African Football.
The timing of this year's ceremony drew criticism with both Drogba and Essien refused permission by Ghana to travel the short distance to neighbouring Togo for the ceremony.
Ghana play Nigeria in a quarter-final in Accra on Sunday, while Drogba will lead the Ivorians against Guinea in Sekondi on the same day.
Other awards were given to the Ivory Coast as the African team of the year and Champions League winners Etoile Sahel of Tunisia as the club of the year.
Etoile Sahel striker Armine Chermiti was named the best African club competition player and Zambian Clifford Mulenga Young African Player of the Year.