It was not a surprise that Sadio Mane was named African Footballer of the Year for 2019 on Tuesday to crown a year in which he won the Champions League with Liverpool FC of England and led Senegal to the Africa Cup of Nations final. Mane, 27, won the award for the first time after finishing runner-up to his Liverpool team-mate Mohamed Salah of Egypt in 2017 and 2018 and taking third place in 2016.
He is only the second Senegalese to win the award after El Hadji Diouf, who was the winner in 2001 and 2002. He said, “Football is my job, I love it. I am really happy and proud to win this award,” adding, “I would like to thank all the Senegalese people, they push me always. I must also thank my (Senegal) coach, Aliou Cisse and Liverpool, all my team mates there.”
Salah opted to skip the ceremony in Hurghurda, Egypt, to take part in training with Liverpool at their Melwood base. Reports that this was due to his ongoing conflict with the Egyptian FA were dismissed. Another victory would have seen Salah become only the third player in history to win the award three times.
Mane was crowned after votes from head coaches, technical directors and captains of the senior national teams from CAF’s member association. A host of other awards were also handed out, with Achraf Hakimi, on loan at Borussia Dortmund from Real Madrid, given the Young Player of the year prize. Coach of the year went to Djamel Belmadi after leading Algeria to the 2019 African Cup of Nations title in emphatic style.
Premier League stars Serge Aurier of Totenham, Liverpool’s Joel Matip, former Everton midfielder Idrissa Gueue, Manchester City’s Riyad Mahrez and Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang were all included in the Team of the Year alongside Mane and Salah.