Sadio Mane was on Tuesday crowned as Africa’s 2019 Player of the Year for the first time at an awards gala in Egypt, but the Liverpool star admitted that he would rather be on the pitch and doing what he does best.
The 27-year old Senegalese forward was up against his club teammate Mohamed Salah, the Egyptian who won in the last two years, and Algerian Riyad Mahrez of Manchester City.
It is the second straight year that the top three are all from English clubs and only the third time that they all play in the same league.
“To be honest, I would prefer to be playing football than speaking in front of so many people,” Mane said at the ceremony organised by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) in Hurghada.
“Football is my job, I love it. I am really happy and at the same time, I am really proud to win this award. It’s a big day for me.”
He is the second winner from Senegal after El Hadji Diouf in 2001 and 2002.
He scored 34 goals and produced 12 assists in 61 appearances last year.
Salah’s tally stood at 26 goals and 10 assists in 55 matches while Mahrez accounted for 14 goals and 18 assists in 48 games last year.
Mane also shared last season’s Premier League Golden Boot award with Salah and Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, with 22 goals.
Extending gratitude to people from his village Bambali, he said: “I would love to thank all the Senegalese people. They have been for me all the time, they push me.
“I must also thank my (Senegal) coach, Aliou Cisse and Liverpool, all my teammates there.”
Neither Salah nor Mahrez, who was playing and scored for City in their 3-1 League Cup semi-final, first-leg win over Manchester United, were present on Tuesday.
Mahrez tweeted: “Congratulations to Sadio for his trophy well deserved and sorry I couldn’t come but I had to start scoring for the 2020 trophy.”
The trio also played in last year’s Africa Cup of Nations. Hosts Egypt crashed out in the last 16 while Algeria went on to beat Senegal 1-0 in the final.
Algeria also won the best team, coach (Djamel Belmadi), and Africa-based player (Youcef Belaili) awards.
Asisat Oshoala of Barcelona was the Women’s Player of the Year, joining fellow Nigerian Perpetua Nkwocha on four wins.