Sadio Mane: The year that was for the 2019 African Footballer of the Year
Sadio Mane: The year that was for the 2019 African Footballer of the Year

Sadio Mane: The year that was for the 2019 African Footballer of the Year

Sadio Mane ascended to become Africa's best footballer of 2019 following the announcement at a colorful ceremony in the Red Sea coastal city of Hurghada, Egypt.

The Senegalese was the clear favorite, and he rightfully beat Premier League stars Mohamed Salah and Riyad Mahrez to the precious award. 

"I'm really happy and proud to win this award. I would like to thank my family, especially my uncle, who is here today. By the way, we don't forget all the Egyptian people... [I would like to thank] My national team and staff, Senegalese Football Federation, Liverpool football club, teammates and everybody...I don't know how to say it, but I would love to thank all the Senegalese people," Mane said at the ceremony.

It's easy to see why Mane was a clear favorite. The 27-year-old's stock has been rising ever since joining Liverpool, and in 2019, he was the main man for Jurgen Klopp as they lifted their sixth Champions League title in Madrid. 

Despite the presence of Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino, Mane has continued to be the highlight of the Liverpool side that keeps improving with each passing game.

In 2019, the former Southampton man scored an impressive 30 goals as the Reds came to within touching distance of the English Premier League, but lost with the thinnest of margins to end up second behind Manchester City. 

In a season where the Liverpool fans expected their main man Mohamed Salah to star, it was their number 10 who literally carried the team to a second-place finish and led them to the top of European club competitions by winning the Champions League.

The 'ever-smiling assassin' however, had something to show of his effort despite missing out on the Premier League medal; taking home the Golden Boot alongside Salah and Arsenal's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Ballon d'Or?

The Senegalese finished fourth in the in Ballon d'Or vote behind Lionel Messi, Van Dijk and Cristiano Ronaldo. The Barcelona star later revealed that he voted for him, and it was 'a shame' he did not win. 

"It’s a shame to see Mane finish in fourth place. Mane achieved a great year that was exceptional for the entire Liverpool team. That's why I chose him. I repeat, there were a lot of very great players this year, so the choice was difficult."

Mane took the fourth-place finish with pride, and revealed he will be targeting first spot in the coming years, just like he promised last year when he missed out on the African Player of the Year, which was won by teammate Salah.

"I am very proud and happy to be named fourth in the world. I am looking forward, and why not number one, maybe?" he told Liverpool's official website.

"I will do everything possible to win the Champions League and Premier League with Liverpool, and we'll see what's going to happen."

His Liverpool journey so far

Mane moved to Liverpool in 2016 from Southampton but took some time to fully settle as Mohamed Salah, who came a year after him, stole the show in his debut season. 

The Egyptian scored an amazing 44 goals in his first season with Liverpool, leading to his name being mentioned in the same breath with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. 

Then in his third season at the club, Mane showed exactly why Liverpool paid £34m for his services. He came into the picture and shared the frame with Salah, finishing as joint top scorers with 22 goals in the league. 

He has treated the Anfield crowd to an amazing show, filled with artistry and athleticism from the left flank, scaring defenders with his pace, direct running, and skills.

Away from Anfield, Mane starred for the Teranka Lions during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, where Mahrez led Algeria to the title. 

Despite losing in the finals, Mane stood out as he impressively led the Lions from the front and was one of the overall stars of the tournament; alongside Mahrez.

Mane's 2019 in figures

✔️ 61 matches last year

⚽ 34 goals  

✔️ 12 assists 

✔️  PFA Team of the Year  

✔️  Ballon d’Or 4th place  

🥇 Premier League Golden Boot  

🏆 Champions League winner  

🏆 Super Cup winner  

🏆 Club World Cup winner  

🥇African Player of the Year

What other players, coach think about him

Jurgen Klopp is Mane's biggest fan and he never hides it. In 2018, shortly after signing a new contract that will see him remain at Anfield until 2023, the German labeled him the 'complete attacking player' and detailed how happy he was to see him commit his long-term future to the club.  

“The only criticism I could ever have of Sadio is that maybe at times he is the only one not to see just how good he is,” said the Liverpool boss then. 

Liverpool are atop of the English Premier League table with a near-perfect record, with their only stumble being a draw against Manchester United in September.

Mane has been at his mercurial best once again, and contributed greatly to the many maximum points they have accumulated.

After his goal in the 2-1 victory against Crystal Palace last year, teammate Andy Robertson was full of praise for him.

“He has been fantastic,” said Robertson. “Even when I came he was amazing but maybe did not have as much composure as he does now in front of goal

“Now, every time he’s in front of goal you don’t think he’ll miss. The others are pitching in as well but it’s been a fantastic year for him and he’s taken his game to another level,” Robertson added.

In a Q&A session on Tuesday afternoon former Chelsea and Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fabregas was asked who is the Premier League's best player, and his answer; 

Mane is showing no signs of slowing down having started the 2019/20 season on a high, netting 15 goals in all competitions. 

With their Premier League form, Liverpool are favorites to lift the title and come May, Mane will add a Premier League winners' medal to his collection of awards. 

For now, he remains one of the most valued players in the league, and arguably, Klopp's best signing for the Reds. 

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