Senegalese international 🇸🇳 Sadio Mane has claimed African players are not considered as serious Ballon d’Or candidates as he revealed his desire to become his continent’s first winner since 1995.
Mane has been outstanding in 2022, leading Senegal to victory in the Africa Cup of Nations then guiding them through to the World Cup finals; those outstanding efforts have run alongside his magnificent form for Liverpool, who will attempt to win the Champions League on Saturday night.
There remains a doubt about Mane’s long term future on Merseyside, with Bayern Munich seemingly intent on recruiting him, and the 30-year-old has promised he will reveal his intentions about what comes next for him after the showdown with Real Madrid.
What isn’t in question is the desire of Liverpool’s number 10 to win the game’s biggest individual prize. It will be awarded in a ceremony in Paris this October but Mane believes he is trying to climb a mountain to show he can be bracketed alongside George Weah.
When it was put to him that African players are often unfairly overlooked, Mane replied: ‘It’s true. If you guys say it, what can I say myself? Which is sad. This cup, the Africa Cup of Nations is one of the biggest for myself, it is the biggest trophy I have won in my life.
‘For an African player not to have won the Ballon d’Or since George Weah it is sad for sure. Winning the Champions League is special. I have a chance to play it again and we have a chance to win it as we have a strong team.
‘We will do everything we can to win it and then we will see what happens, with the Ballon d’Or. I think myself and all the Liverpool players will have targets from the beginning of the season, to go for all the trophies for sure. So far we have won two, and missed one, which is behind us.
‘Manchester City fully deserved (to win the title). To win the Champions League would be special for me and for all the other boys. This is what we focus on. We have to do what we can to win…and the rest you guys have to decide.
‘For me it would be even more special to have another bonus which is the Ballon d’Or – and I would be the happiest player in the world.’ Whatever happens this summer, Mane – who current deal expires in June 2023 – should have no fears about the way he is regarded in the pantheon of Liverpool’s modern greats. He is arguably the most important signing of the Jurgen Klopp era, the first big money who was roaring hit.
He has been the man for the big occasion for Liverpool; he scored in the 2018 Champions League final against Real Madrid, won a penalty the following year against Tottenham, demolished Manchester City in the FA Cup semi-final in April and keeps popping up with huge goals.
‘Honestly I’m really enjoying every single moment,’ said Mane. ‘The Champions League final will make it even more special (if) we win it. Two finals is something but you have to dream big and I am a player who dreams big.
‘Playing a Champions League final I think is special and we need to make it even more special. We have the squad to do it. I would say one of the best seasons…so far! I won one of the most important things in my life and it gives me even more motivation to go on for the next step.’
On his future, he added: ‘the answer I can give you now is I feel very good, and I am fully focused on the Saturday game, that is the answer I must give before the final. But come back to me on Saturday and I will give you the best answer. For now, let’s go and win it.’