Two stars of African origin battle for Champions League… they could decide Ballon d’Or  winner

Two stars of African origin battle for Champions League… they could decide Ballon d’Or  winner
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Sadio Mane’s Liverpool and Karim Benzema’s Real Madrid meet in this season’s Champions League final

It has been a very fruitful year for reigning African Footballer of the Year, Sadio Mane of Senegal after an incredible treble so far – Africa Cup of Nations, League Cup as well  the FA Cup.

Added to his string of victories is the qualification of Senegal for the Qatar 2022 World Cup. With UEFA Champions League in view, he appears on a good standing to claim the Ballon d’Or.

On the other hand is France international, Karim Benzema who is of Algerian origin. He stars for Real Madrid, the team Mane’s Liverpool will contest the Champions League title with this weekend.

According to the BBC, quoting a former Liverpool defender, Djimi Traore,  the outcome of the Champions League final  could decide who wins this year’s Ballon d’Or.

The man who was left-back when the Anfield club won the trophy in 2005 thinks Senegal forward Sadio Mane is in contention for the award – but says he faces stiff competition from Real and France striker Karim Benzema.

Benzema, 34, has struck 15 goals in Europe this season to help the Spanish giants set up a meeting with Liverpool in Paris on Saturday.

Mane was instrumental in Senegal’s first Africa Cup of Nations triumph in February and helped the Teranga Lions qualify for the 2022 World Cup, with the 30-year-old having also won two domestic cups with his club this season.

“I think Karim Benzema is in the form in his life – he’s doing fantastically,” Traore told BBC Sport Africa.

“I think the winner of the Champions League, the individual reward would be like winning the Ballon d’Or. Right now it looks like it’ll be between Benzema and Mane.”

Nominees for this year’s Ballon d’Or will be revealed on 12 August, with the winner announced at a ceremony in Paris in 17 October.

Organisers France Football have decided the prize will now be judged on performances over a season rather than over a calendar year, which was the previous format.

Saturday’s showdown between Real Madrid and Liverpool in Paris is a rematch of the 2018 Champions League final, when the Spaniards ran out 3-1 winners to clinch their 13th European crown.

Jurgen Klopp’s Reds returned 12 months later to win the title for the sixth time and Traore thinks his old side are slight favourites this year, despite finishing second in the Premier League.

“They have a fantastic manager,” the 42-year-old former Mali international said.

“Some of their players are the best in the positions they play. When you see Mo Salah, he’s a top-class player, the best African player. You see Mane as well and after that you have (Virgil) Van Dijk and a couple of other players.

“They just got (Luis) Diaz – he was a great addition for the team. And they look confident.

“Maybe it’s one of the first times Liverpool look like favourites in the final and that’s something maybe they’re not used to. They did it last time against Tottenham [in 2019], so why not do it again?”

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