Arsenal striker Emmanuel Adebayor was named African Footballer of the Year on Tuesday.
The Togo international beat Chelsea’s Ghanaian midfielder Michael Essien and Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Aboutrika in a poll of coaches and captains of African national teams by the Confederation of African Football.
It is the first major award for the lanky striker, recognised for his goals in the English Premier League and his role in helping Togo qualify for the last phase of the African qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup.
Adebayor, who turns 25 later this month, scored 24 goals in the Premier League last season. He got four goals in three games for Togo in their World Cup qualifiers.
“I’m very happy to have received this award,” he told a gala ceremony in Lagos.
“I’m highly honoured by what I have done in African football and now that the World Cup is coming close and is in Africa, we’ll work hard to win the championship.”
South Africa host the 2010 World Cup, for which Togo are seeking to qualify for a second successive tournament. They start the last phase of the qualifiers with a match against Cameroon next month.
Adebayor succeeded Frederic Kanoute of Mali as winner of the award, which last year earned unwanted notoriety when officials decided to give it only to players willing to attend the annual CAF awards ceremony.
It meant Chelsea’s Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba, the popular favourite, was unable to retain the award he won for his performances in 2006.
Ivory Coast striker Salomon Kalou, who also plays for Premier League Chelsea, was named African young player of the year.