At the end of the 2018/2019 English Premiership League, three players of African ancestry had jointly won the Golden Award, a prestige meant for the highest goal scorer in a season.
The season before, it was Harry Kane, the most prolific English striker of the moment, who won it. He is with the Tottenham FC, a semifinalist in the last Champions League.
The three players were: Sadio Mane, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mohammed Salah, who is better known as the Egyptian king by his coterie of admirers and fans alike. The three players each scored 22 goals in all EPL matches for the season.
Sallah and Mane belong to the Liverpool Football Club while Aubameyang, from Gabon, plies his trade with Arsenal Football Club. He had transferred his services from the German side, Borussia Dortmund, to Arsenal FC at the beginning of the season and quickly registered his presence, becoming a darling of the fans.
Perhaps since the new EPL debuted in 1992, 2018/2019 would be the first time three African players would be joint winners of the Golden Boot. It’s to the eternal credit of these players who have left no one who loves the beautiful game in doubt of their mesmerizing skills, sublime knowledge of the game and their top notch finishing skills.
Of the three EPL Golden Boot medallists, Mane could be described as the odd man out as he is not a traditional striker in the real sense of the word. Neither is Salah, who prefers to cut in from the flanks, though the Egyptian has now accepted the label that he is a striker and goals he must bang!
Now on the prestigious 10-man shortlist for FIFA Player of the Year, a honor he may or may not win eventually, without much ado about nothing, apologies to the bard of old, Williams Shakespeare, Mane had an incredible season in 2018/2019, helping Liverpool to pile pressure on Manchester City, eventual winner of the EPL until the last day of the season.
Aside making the 10-man shortlist for FIFA Player of the Year, Mane is on the 3-man UEFA shortlist for the Best Forward of the Year for 2018/2019 season. The other two players on the list are the mercurial Christiano Ronaldo and the stellar Lionel Messi. He was part of CAF Africa’s Finest XI.
Imbued with a signature smile which signals a man at peace with himself through thick or thin, Mane, bought from Southampton FC in 2016 at £34m, contributed immensely to the breath-taking 2018/2019 season Liverpool had which culminated in the Merseyside club winning another UEFA Champions diadem after the 2005 one. He was also pivotal winning the UEFA Super Cup against Chelsea FC in Istanbul recently.
Besides his stellar performance during the 2018/2019 UEFA Champions League and EPL seasons, he also was instrumental to Senegal getting to the finals of the African Nations Cup (AFCON) hosted by Egypt. Senegal lost to Algeria in the final by a lone goal.
Mane has been described by many football pundits as a complete offensive player, lethal on both feet, incredible in aerial duels; can do solo runs and also unselfish when it comes to releasing passes to his teammates. He is also a bundle of energy who never gets tired, and most of the times, injury proof.
He knows when to go alone and when to release the ball. He however needs to improve on his tackles especially when he loses the ball and also work on his penalty taking skill, an area where he is yet to hit clinical finishing. He showed this much during the recently concluded AFCON.
Good on the pitch and also off it. Mane is currently giving back to the community where he was born and bred in Senegal. He is building a school in Bambaly in southern Senegal, among other humanitarian interventions. He is the darling of the good and old in the community and a household name in the country at large.