The Senegal international stands at the threshold of history as he aims to become the first footballer from the black continent to win the Balon D’or since the iconic Liberian.
Liverpool’s Sadio Mane could be the second Africa superstar to be named the World’s Best Player after he was shortlisted alongside nine other football stars with the winner expected to be declared at a glamorous gala night in September.
Three Liverpool players make the shortlist for #TheBest Men's Player 🔴👏
— GOAL (@goal) July 31, 2019
FIFA also listed Mane’s club teammates Dutchman Virgil van Dijk and Egyptian Mohammed Salah along with Ajax’s Dutch duo of Mattijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong.
🚨 Ready? 🚨#TheBest Men's Player nominees:
Voting NOW OPEN 👇https://t.co/nw6p9KIcc6
— FIFA (@FIFAcom) July 31, 2019
Also on the ten-man list are PSG’s forward Kylian Mbappe, Tottenham’s captain Harry Kane, former Chelsea playmaker Eden Hazard as well as the unstoppable duo of Juventus star Cristiano Ronaldo and Barcelona’s magician Lionel Messi.
Pretty much a who-is-who in world football at the moment.
Yet there is that feeling tugging at the conscience of many that an African – either of Mo Salah or Sadio Mane – may take the coveted prize back to the black continent for the first time in nearly 25 years.
It is increasingly looking more likely to be Sadio than Salah.
George Weah, often regarded as one of the greatest African players of all time, in 1995, was named FIFA World Player of the Year and won the Balon d’Or, becoming the first and to date only African player to win these awards.
The former Liberian international and current President of that West African country in his prime was known for his acceleration, speed, and dribbling ability, in addition to his goalscoring and finishing, attributes the Senegal forward have in common.
— supermane10 (@supermanelfc) July 25, 2019
Unlike Weah, he may not have won the Africa Player of the Year awards just yet but he has featured at the World Cup finals and only recently won a silver medal at the Africa Cup of Nations.
Since 2013, the team that wins the UEFA Champions League has produced the Balon D’or winner. If that tradition continues, then Sadio already has an edge over his two Liverpool teammates.
Last season he was joint recipient – with Mo Salah – of the Premier League Golden Boot with 22 goals and then followed that up with a successful run to the final of the AFCON. Salah left that tournament earlier in the Round of 16.
Sadio Mane 🇸🇳
• Won UEFA Champions League
• Joint top-scorer in Premier League
• Helped Senegal to CAF Africa Cup of Nations finalpic.twitter.com/iHzly3pEU2
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) July 31, 2019
Virgil van Dijk has had a phenomenal year and half and should amass a significant amount of votes but no defender since Fabio Cannavaro have come close to winning the award. And even the most expensive defender in the world may find that bridge too slippery to cross.
Especially when squared up against an attacker who joined Liverpool for a transfer fee that made him the most expensive African player in history at the time.
Ten of the last eleven World’s Best Player awards have been shared equally between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Luka Modric broke that sequence last year after engineering Real Madrid’s third straight Champions League winners.
Sadio Mane, and indeed all of black Africa, would be delighted to see a repeat of such break in tradition.