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WHAT WORLD FOOTBALL ICONS SAY ABOUT MANE, AFRICAN SOCCER KING

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Mane stats

  • 64 – Since the start of the 2018/19 season, Mane has scored or assisted 64 goals for club and country.
  • 88 – This season it’s taken Mane on average 88 minutes to score or assist for Liverpool, with his Anfield career averaging just 117 minutes.
  • 22 – Mane’s tally of 22 goals last season in the Premier League was his best-ever tally, seeing him share the golden boot with team-mate Mohamed Salah and fellow African forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Arsenal.

Even before he was crowned as the new African soccer king on Tuesday in Egypt, Senegal’s Sadio Mane had been celebrated by the world best known footballers.

Before the poll that enthroned him, Lionel Messi and Eden Hazard already voted Mane as the best on the planet during the FIFA The Best polls.

Mane was part of a stellar cast of FIFA Club World Cup and UEFA Champions League winning stars with Liverpool, the 27-year-old has joined the likes of Virgil van Dijk and Mohamed Salah in earning individual plaudits, too.

The Premier League golden boot winner’s arrival at the pinnacle of African football comes after an incredible and inspiring rise from the streets of Bambali in southern Senegal. He was ten years old when he saw his heroes, the Lions of Teranga, appear at the FIFA World Cup™ for the first time – but he already had the football bug by then.

A teenage Mane briefly ran away from home to seek his fortune in the capital, while his first major try-out as a 16-year-old threatened to be overshadowed by his lack of kit.

“I did not look like a footballer,” he told France Football. “I was wearing pants that looked nothing like football shorts. And my football boots were completely shredded on the sides and had been repaired by me with wire the best I could.”

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Thankfully, his dazzling talent was all the scouts were left remembering, beginning his rise to the top. He was a diamond in the rough with Metz in the French second tier, catching the eye of Red Bull Salzburg.

Then, while in Austria, he almost got an early opportunity to link up with Jurgen Klopp at Borussia Dortmund, but the German coach passed on the chance.

“It was simply a wrong evaluation on my side,” the Liverpool boss admitted. “It is not the only wrong decision I have made, this one I could correct some years later.”

Here is what the stars say about the king:

Riyad Mahrez (Algeria/Manchester City): “Congratulations to Sadio for his trophy well deserved…and sorry I couldn’t come but I had to start scoring for the 2020 trophy…see you next year inch’Allah

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Lionel Messi (Argentina/FC Barcelona: “It’s a shame to see Mane finish in fourth place (at the Ballon d’Or). But I think there have been a lot of great players this year. That’s why it was difficult to choose a particular player.

“But I chose Sadio Mane because he’s a player that I like. Mane achieved a great year that was exceptional for the entire Liverpool team. That’s why I chose him.”

Christoph Freund, Red Bull Salzburg sporting director, talking with the Mirror:

 “I found him in Metz in the third division and his development was outstanding. We saw a lot of potential. We saw his movements, his speed, he was so hungry to score goals. When we then met him personally he was really clear and he wanted to make the next step.”

Jamie Carragher, former Liverpool captain, talking on Sky Sports:

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 “He was Klopp’s first big signing and he was the one that got Liverpool back into the top four, the next season was the Champions League final and this season is challenging for the title. He is the one that has been there from the very start.”

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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