Sadio Mané, captain and great star of Senegal, member of the magic trident of Liverpool, surprised many by declaring at the end of June that “he would change the Champions League to win the African Cup”. And now, in his great year, Mané is two days away from becoming king of Africa as well as European champion.
Not in vain besides lifting the Champions after the triumph of the ‘reds’ on June 1 in the final against Tottenham (0-2) Mané conquered six days before the Golden Boot of the Premier, with 22 goals, shared with his partner in Liverpool Mohamed Salah and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
The boy from Senegal whose hero was Ronaldinho
And now, if Senegal wins Algeria in the final on Friday, Mané, whose hero as a child in his country “was Ronaldinho”, will achieve his most desired goal: to bring the African Cup to his compatriots. These are his words of June on France Football: “It would be great to win for my country, which never won an African Cup. I would be willing to change it for the Champions. The return to Dakar (with the trophy) would be extraordinary. It’s my craziest dream. ”
Mané, 27, is already a symbol for his country and represents hope, the new generation that wins. He was the leader of the Senegalese team that got the return to the World Cup 16 years later, since 2002, when he reached the Russia 2018.
In this Africa Cup Mané has three goals and has failed two penalties. His coach, Aliou Cissé, said about his captain that “he has something unique, nothing is foreseeable in him, without a plan, he can make a difference at any time, in a dribbling, a pass or a percussion”. If he wins the African Cup, Mané will join the club of those who have won it and also the Champions League, like the Cameroonian Samuel Eto’o, the Algerian Rabah Madjer, the Ivory Coast’s Salomon Kalou and Touré Yaya, the Nigerians Finidi George and John Obi Mikel and the Ghanaian Abedi Pelé.
The collective before the individuality
Aliou Cissé affirmed about Mané that “he has his head on his shoulders, he understands that the collective passes over the individualities”. That is why the Senegal coach says his captain “does not think about the Golden Ball”. Trophy that would become one of the candidates if you add the African Cup to the Champions League (like his teammate Alisson has added the Copa América).
It is the third African Cup played by Mané (eliminated in 2015 in the first phase and in 2017 losing by penalties in the quarterfinals against Cameroon, 4-5 after a 0-0, collapsing when his maximum penalty was stopped). Senegal’s best performance in the African Cup dates back to 2002, when it was runner-up after losing the final against Cameroon also on penalties in Mali (2-3 after a 0-0).