Aliou Cisse reckons Sadio Mane deserves Ballon d’Or glory this year and added he will strengthen his case should Senegal win the Africa Cup of Nations.
Mane had his most impressive campaign in a Liverpool jersey last term upon firing them to Champions League glory and a runners-up spot in the Premier League, with a club-record points tally of 97.
The 27-year-old striker even finished level with his illustrious team-mate Mohamed Salah and Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as the Premier League’s Golden Boot award winner.
This had captured the interest of Real Madrid, who have been lacking in firepower since Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus move last summer. But Mane shut down the rumours and is now fully focused on leading Senegal to their first AFCON crown this summer.
On the other hand, though, head coach Cisse reckons Mane deserves to join the likes of Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Ronaldinho and Zinedine Zidane as the 45th winner of the highly-coveted Ballon d’Or.
“Why not? He has worked hard not only in the last year but since 2011, where I’ve known him to have great discipline and high professionalism. I followed him from his time in Austria and Southampton until he arrived at Liverpool,” Cisse told Goal.
“What he has achieved this year is a result of great effort over many years and winning the AFCON will be an extension of those efforts. It will take him a step closer to the Golden Ball, which I think he deserves to win.”
However, Mane’s performances for Senegal haven’t quite matched the same standards he achieves at Liverpool much to some fans’ frustrations.
The Reds star has scored 16 times in 60 appearances for the Lions of Teranga.
“No one can dispute the abilities of Sadio Mane,” said Cisse.
“He’s a world-class player and has proven as much. He’s always talking [to me] about everything, even when he’s with Liverpool.
“I’ve tried to help him as best I can but more importantly, he has self-confidence and he managed to recover quickly. What’s happened [the criticisms] has motivated him to respond to everyone and I think he’s succeeded in doing that.”
Senegal will have to make do without a suspended Mane, though, for their AFCON opener against Tanzania on Sunday in Group C.