Sadio Mané’s triumph at AFCON could propel him in the discussion for the 2022 Ballon d’Or, and secure the award that Mohamed Salah has craved for so long.
For so long this season, many Liverpool fans believed that Mohamed Salah should have been in with a fighting chance of winning the 2021 Ballon d’Or.
Salah had started the 2021/22 campaign on fire, scoring and creating goals at will. In the final four months of the year, Salah had reached a level he’d never previously hit, and in many ways had transformed into the complete player.
In the end, his sparkling form wasn’t enough towards the end of 2021 wasn’t enough to convince the voters, who handed the award to Lionel Messi.
Talk then soon turned to Salah winning it this year, which was entirely possible granted he maintained his earlier season form consistently throughout the rest of the season.
But another Liverpool player could be in with a real chance of winning the gong and one who wasn’t even on the shortlist last year — Sadio Mané.
Mane’s historic triumph with Senegal has now catapulted him into a good position for the 2022 Ballon d’Or, and Liverpool boss Jürgen Klopp was asked about Mané’s chances.
“I have no idea,” Klopp said before the game against Burnley. “I think it depends a lot about the season and usually you have to win the Champions League. I can’t remember who votes for what, but that’s how it seems to work.
“But I couldn’t have more respect for what Sadio did. He is, for sure, now one of the biggest Senegal legends of all-time — and rightly so.”
While it is still very early doors in the calendar year, much of Mané’s chances hinge on how successful Liverpool will be in the remainder of the season.
He could feasibly pick up another piece of silverware by the end of the month, with Liverpool in the final of the EFL Cup against Chelsea.
There is no secret formula to success in winning the Ballon d’Or, but the general consensus is that any given player needs to be integral to a side that wins the Champions League, or scores a ludicrous number of goals over 12 months.
But sometimes this can be flipped on its head. Messi won the latest edition despite winning nothing at club level, but won the Copa América with Argentina.
Yes, Argentina hadn’t won a trophy since 1993, but players who strictly won the competition in the past weren’t automatically favourites to win the Ballon d’Or, unless they combined it with an excellent season at club level (Ronaldo in 1997; Rivaldo in 1999).
Salah was critical of the voting process this year after he finished seventh.
“If you asked me if this was a drive for me to be here? Yeah, of course,” said Salah to GQ magazine.
“I can’t really lie and say honestly I didn’t think about it. No, I think about it. I want to be the best player in the world. But I will have a good life even if I don’t win [the Ballon d’Or].
“My life is OK, everything is fine. Sometimes I feel it’s just politics.”