Sadio Mané has arguably been Liverpool’s best, most consistent forward for a year; their most dangerous attacker and a constant scoring threat still willing to put in the hard work off the ball that Jürgen Klopp demands.
Despite that, he’s been largely overlooked this football awards season. Which he says he doesn’t mind, at least for the big individual honours where it’s often been teammates coming ahead of him. It’s not all smiles and acceptance for Mané, though.
“I do not focus on individual distinctions, the collective results are more important,” he said of coming fifth in UEFA Player of the Year voting and finishing out of the top three for FIFA’s prize. “The players in the awards had exceptional seasons, they deserved to be there.
“I think it’s a strong message for me to work harder. I accept it. It’s hard for me to to say that I deserve to be there, I’m modest enough for that, and the thing is, the choices have been made and I respect them.”
If it’s teammate Virgil van Dijk finishing ahead of him, or someone like Lionel Messi, Mané seems willing to accept it—and to use it as motivation to work even harder going forward. And that seems like a reasonable reaction to the various player of the year awards.
Where Mané—as well many Liverpool fans—raised an eyebrow, though, was with his exclusion from an honour like FIFA’s Men’s World11, which had room for Kylian Mbappe and Eden Hazard and Luka Modric this season but not for Mané.
It seemed a glaring oversight at the time—though no less glaring than Marcelo and Sergio Ramos being picked as the fullbacks over either of Liverpool’s—and it seems that it was an oversight that Mané noticed and took note of.
“I will tell you that I deserve to be there,” he said. “It’s a jury that votes and everyone has their way of seeing things. Personally, I would say that I deserve to be there, but it’s a choice.”