Liverpool forward Sadio Mane has outlined his ambition to become the first African Ballon d’Or winner since George Weah claimed the highly-coveted accolade 27 years ago.
Mane has enjoyed a breathtaking season for both club and country, playing a huge role for Liverpool as Jurgen Klopp’s men secured a domestic cup double and prepare to take on Real Madrid in the Champions League final this weekend, while he won Senegal’s first-ever Africa Cup of Nations earlier this year.
The 30-year-old ultimately scored the winning penalty in the final over Egypt that secured his nation continental silverware, and followed up by guiding Senegal to this year’s winter World Cup, where they will make their third appearance in the quadrennial competition.
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Given his form, Mane has been touted as a potential front-runner for the next Ballon d’Or, and he could see that backing enhanced if Liverpool get the business done in Paris on Saturday and triumph in this season’s Champions League final.
Although Mane was naturally buoyant about the prospect of scooping football’s ultimate individual accolade, he was somewhat sombre that more African players haven’t been recognised by Ballon d’Or officials, with Weah still the only player from the continent to win the award.
When asked whether African players have largely been overlooked for the Ballon d’Or this century, Mane reflected: “It’s true, which is sad. This cup, the Africa Cup of Nations, is the biggest trophy I have won in my life and for an African player not to have won the Ballon d’Or since George Weah is sad, for sure.”
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Mane has now talked up the possibility of emulating Weah, though he did stress that any individual recognition will on be a “bonus” if Liverpool triumph on Saturday night.
Mane continued: “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 have targets from the beginning of the season, which is to go for all the trophies.
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“So far we have won two, and missed one, which is behind us now, and Manchester City fully deserved it [the Premier League title]. And to win the Champions League would be special for me and for all the other boys.
“This is what we focus on, and we have to do what we can to win. 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.”
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