Arsene Wenger has backed the “outstanding” Sadio Mane for the 2019 Ballon d’Or ahead of Liverpool team-mate Virgil van Dijk.
Wenger, like many others, has been impressed by Mane’s remarkable progress over the last 12 months, with the Liverpool star arguably now one of the world’s best alongside his illustrious team-mates Van Dijk and Mohamed Salah.
Last season saw Mane register a career-best of 26 goals in 50 appearances in all competitions. He also played a big part in ending Liverpool’s seven-year wait for silverware by winning the Champions League.
The 27-year-old, who shared last term’s Premier League Golden Boot award with Salah and Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, later led Senegal to the Africa Cup of Nations final.
But it’s been Van Dijk who has emerged as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo’s main challenger for the individual accolades, so far.
The Dutch centre-back won the UEFA Player of the Year in August, and finished runner-up to Messi in the FIFA’s The Best award.
Bookies have also made Van Dijk the hot favourite to win Ballon d’Or with Messi and Ronaldo completing the top-three. Mane, on the other hand, doesn’t even feature in the top-five.
Arsene Wenger names his 2019 #BallonDor winner!
— beIN SPORTS (@beINSPORTS_EN) October 18, 2019
The final nominees for this year’s award, of course, will be announced on Monday.
And one person who would definitely give Mane his vote is none other than former Arsenal manager Wenger.
“Mane was the outstanding character,” Wenger told BeIN Sports.
“I would say – because he is a fighter… and efficient. He’s not scared of anybody. At the moment, he deserves huge credit.”
The 2019 Ballon d’Or winner will be declared during a ceremony in Paris on December 2.
Meanwhile, Mane has continued his brilliant form for this season with eight goals already scored in his opening 11 appearances.
The striker will likely line-up alongside Salah and Roberto Firmino in the Liverpool attack on Sunday for the club’s clash with old rivals Manchester United at Old Trafford.