Senegalese forward Sadio Mane has been a finalist in the previous three editions of the Confederation of African Football (Caf) Player of the Year, but in all those instances, he failed to claim the coveted piece of silverware.
His Liverpool teammate Mohamed Salah of Egypt and Algeria’s 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) winning captain Riyad Mahrez stand in the way of his dream to finally earn the title when the awards are held on Tuesday in Hurghada in the Egyptian city of Hurghada.
Mane was Senegal’s main man at the 2019 Afcon when he netted three goals on the Teranga Lions’ path to the final where they lost by a solitary goal to Algeria. He netted a brace in the 3-0 group phase victory over Kenya and added one more in the round of 16, 1-0 win over Uganda.
He was also a vital part of the team as they beat Benin and Tunisia in the quarters and semis respectively, his influence playing a big role in Senegal’s run to the final.
For his club Liverpool, Mane was just as sensational as he was for Senegal as he played another crucial role aiding them to the Uefa Champions League title for the first time since 2005.
The forward scored crucial goals, key among them a double over Bayern Munich in a 3-1 victory in the round of 16 and once in the aggregate 6-1 win over Porto in the quarterfinals as the Reds steamrolled into the final and ultimately bag the Champions League title.
In the English Premier League, Mane shared the Golden Boot crown with Salah and Arsenal’s Gabonese front-man Pierre Emerick Aubameyang, all three having netted 22 times for their respective clubs. On top of that, Mane scored 39 goals across all competitions for Liverpool in the 2018-2019 season.
The forward kept his form into the new campaign and in the season-opening UEFA Super Cup, Mane scored twice in a 2-2 draw with Chelsea, a game they ultimately won 5-4 on penalties to pick up yet another trophy.
At the just concluded FIFA Club World Cup in Doha, Qatar, Mane laid up the assist for Roberto Firmino’s winning goal in the final against Flamengo. The Senegalese hitman was also in the top five for the Ballon d’Or, a crown ultimately won by Argentine wizard Lionel Messi.
In seven of the last eight awards, the winner has come from the English Premier League. It is certain that tradition will continue with all three of the 2019 finalists plying their trade in England. With all the numbers looking impressive for him, many will ask, is this the year that Mane finally breaks the duck?
In partnership with ANA and Sports Leo