BY DILENJIT SINGH
He was Lionel Messi’s pick as the world’s premier player at the Best FIFA awards, Cesc Fabregas believes he has been one of the three best footballers for “a while now” and Jamie Carragher opined that his Liverpool side would have won the English Premier League in 2009 if they had him in the team.
After surreptitiously sliding away from the spotlight for most of his career, the soft-spoken Sadio Mane seems to finally be getting the plaudits his performances warrant.
But his Senegal coach Aliou Cisse believes last season’s EPL joint-Golden Boot winner deserves to be feted even further.
At a press conference at Swissotel The Stamford ahead of his team’s clash with Brazil at the National Stadium tonight, the former Paris Saint-Germain and Birmingham City midfielder said Mane deserves to be recognised as the best player in the world.
The 27-year-old Liverpool wide forward finished fifth at last month’s Best Fifa Men’s Player award, behind Messi, Virgil van Dijk, Cristiano Ronaldo and Mohamed Salah.
When The New Paper asked Cisse if he agreed with Messi, Fabregas and Carragher’s assessments of his star player, he said: “With all those testimonies from those brilliant players, we should really grant Sadio the Best Player award, because they are good players and they recognise the quality of Mane.”
Mane was more coy about whether he was approaching the stratosphere of Messi and Ronaldo, saying: “What a compliment… I will try to do everything to get this kind of award.”
With the likes of Mane and captain Kalidou Koulibaly, who is considered among the world’s best centre-backs, in his side, Cisse believes Senegal could cement their place as Africa’s best-ever team at the 2022 World Cup.
Cisse, 43, insists that his charges can go beyond the quarter-finals on football’s grandest stage, something only his team of 2002, Cameroon’s class of 1990 and most recently Ghana in 2010 have achieved.
Said Cisse: “I believe we have a good team who can go even beyond that. It is from that perspective that we have accepted the (offer) to play against Brazil.
“Our ambition is not just here. We are looking to go very far. We believe we can reach further than the quarter-finals.”
Looking ahead to the clash with five-time World Cup winners Brazil, Cisse warns that, even if his side don’t dominate the match, they can still hurt the Selecao.
He said: “It is not the case that if you control the ball, you will win… Even if we don’t control the ball, we can use other strategies to score… (Senegal’s) strengths are attacking and defending together, so what is important is to have that cohesion in the team.”
Mane, meanwhile, said that should his side cause just the fourth defeat of Tite’s 44-match tenure, his Liverpool teammate Roberto Firmino will not hear the end of it.
“We know each other very well. He knows I will talk a lot if I score or we get a win against Brazil,” said Mane, who has 19 international goals in 66 games.
“He will do everything possible to stop me scoring or to stop us winning.” –
–The New Paper