Q&A with Mali and Sevilla's Frederic Kanoute
At the beginning of February this year Mali and FC Sevilla striker Frederic Kanoute became the first European-born player to be named the Confederation of African Football's African Footballer of the Year.
In so doing Kanotue beat tough opposition from the likes of Didier Drogba and Michael Essien to land the coveted award. Sadly however his triumph was not without controversy.
The story goes (according to the conspiracy theorists) that Drogba was to be named winner, but with the Ivory Coast preparing for their African Nations Cup quarter-final the Chelsea striker was unable to attend the ceremony. Furious at the snub, CAF duly upgraded Kanoute, who was available to attend as Mali had already been eliminated from the tournament.
ESPNsoccernet Press Pass caught up with Kanoute after the dust had settled to discuss his award as well as the impact of manager Juande Ramos leaving Sevilla to join his former club Tottenham Hotspur.
Kanoute also revealed his thoughts on Ramos' early success with Spurs and the possibility of a future return to the Premier League.
Question: You recently had the honour to be named African Player of the Year, what did that mean to you?
Freddie Kanoute: It meant a lot. To have a trophy, a personal trophy is great. And because Africa means so much to me it's even greater. African people love football, it means so much to them, so to get this award is something very important for me.
Are you aware of the rumours that you were being threatened ahead of the awards ceremony that if you didn't attend, you might not get the prize? And that maybe Drogba was named before you? What is your analysis on all of this?
I don't want to get into this polemic because it leads nowhere. The important thing for me is that I don't feel that I stole the trophy. I honestly think I deserve it for 2007. Afterwards I thought about it and I said look, 'I've won trophies, I've been one of the top goal-scorers in European leagues'. So I think this is the moment for me to get this trophy, I'm just happy about that.
I know Didier, he's a good lad and a good player, a fantastic player. He deserved it last year also, like I did this year and someone else will deserve it next year. That's it.
Let's speak about your former coach Juande Ramos, are you surprised at his success at Tottenham, your former club?
I'm not surprised at all because I know he's a very good coach he achieved many things with us here, it was quite historic for Sevilla and now he's going to do it at Tottenham, so I'm not surprised.
What affect did Juande leaving Sevilla have on you?
It affected us, all of us, because we were used to a way of working and it had to change. But now we have another manager and we have to get used to his way of working and it's getting good. We just have to get that understanding between the manager and the players, and that's what we're getting now, so it's OK.
Did it surprise you that he took that decision at the time?
Surprise? No, because the English league is very, very interesting and it attracts lots of people, it's like a big show and so many good players, good teams; he wanted maybe to have a try, you know? So, I understand that and I respect his decision.
Did you see the game, the Carling Cup Final?
Yes, not all off it but I've seen part of it, they played quite well.
How did you feel to see Tottenham winning that cup?
Good, especially for my former team-mates like Ledley King and Robbie Keane. When I saw them lifting the cup I felt happy for them because at Tottenham we had been talking about winning things for a long time and they haven't won anything since... I don't even remember! So they're very happy and I felt happy for them.
Do you picture yourself returning to the English Premier League?
Not at the moment, no. I find no reason to leave La Liga, I'm OK here, I play well here and I'm in a good team at the moment. But anything can happen; it depends on the offers I get.