Bayern Munich legend Samuel Osei Kuffour believes he was unfairly denied the Caf African Footballer of the Year awards in 1999 and 2001 when he placed second on both occasions.
After an impressive season with the German giants where he won the league and finished second in the Uefa Champions League, the Ghana international lost the 1999 honour to Arsenal and Nigeria striker Nwankwo Kanu.
Two years on, freshly from winning the Bundesliga, Champions League and the Intercontinental Cup, the defender saw continental disappointment for the second time as he was pipped by Senegal and Lens winger El-Hadji Diouf.
“I think I should have won the two of them,” Kuffour tolf Goal on Saturday, “because in 1999, Kanu was injured for [almost] the whole year. He scored a hat-trick [against Chelsea] but how many games did he play? Last time, he and I were debating, we were talking about it.
“Kanu and I go a long way, we have been very good friends. We were discussing the issue and it turned into laughter. For me, I think I deserved to win in 1999. Even the guy who came third, [Ibrahima] Bakayoko [of Mali] told me I deserved to win it.
“In 2001, even for the BBC African Player of the Year, El-Hadji Diouf was not even part of it. It was me, Mohammed Kallon of Sierra Leone and Samuel Eto’o. So why should El-Hadji Diouf win [the Caf award]?
“If you become the African Player of the Year, they [Caf] will call you to tell you. You have to choose the venue and date. And I did that: I chose the venue and date. Even today, a lot of people ask about that; they were shocked. How?
“You play Africa Cup of Nations in January and you didn’t win the trophy. I won the league, FA Cup, the Champions League, the Inter-continental Cup – I was the [Man of the Match], I was the best defender in the German league, so how? I don’t know. I don’t think about it. We talk about it and we laugh – me and my children.”
The year 2001 forever holds a special place in Kuffour’s heart as aside from the club honours, he picked up a number of individual prizes too.
“I think 2001 was the greatest moment of my career because it was a year of gold for me because 1991 we [Ghana U17] won the World Cup and in 2001, I won the Champions League,” the 43-year-old said.
“And then I won the [BBC] African Player of the Year, the Ghana Player of the Year, the Ghana Sportsman of the Year, I won the Intercontinental Cup in Japan [where I won the Man of the Match] and got a car. So for me, 2001 was an incredible year for me.”
Despite missing out on the two Caf awards, finishing on the losing side in the 1999 Uefa Champions League final and experiencing a disappointing end to his only Fifa World Cup appearance at Germany 2006, the centre-back reckons he does not see a low moment in his career.
“I don’t have a low moment of my career because in my career, I was consistent. The consistency was very key for me because if you want to be the best, you cannot play for just two years and become the best,” the centre-back opined.
“For me to be recognised among the 30 Best African Players of All-Time and being the only defender, I think it was a great achievement for me.”
Kuffour is among a coveted few of Ghanaian footballers to have represented the nations at the World Cup at all levels – U17, U20, U23 and senior stage.