In the current 2021-22 season, the Senegal international has remained a talismanic presence at Anfield, and he might be in contention for the famous Golden Ball. Jurgen Klopp believes Sadio Mane can force his way into contention for the 2022 Ballon d’Or if Liverpool win the Champions League this season. The “world class” talent has been advised that European triumph may be required to bag a Golden Ball because he is not Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo.
While the Senegal international may not have the individual records and awards that Argentine and Portuguese superstars do, he is a talismanic figure at Anfield, having scored 20 goals in all competitions this season. The most recent of them occurred in the first leg of a European semi-final against Villarreal, with many now speculating that Mane may fight with the likes of Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappe for a renowned award given out by France Football every year.
Liverpool remain in contention for an unprecedented quadruple this season, with the Carabao Cup winners still in the running for another Premier League title while also reaching the last four of the Champions League and the FA Cup final. Mane continues to star across multiple competitions, with Klopp saying when asked if a man that has also savoured Africa Cup of Nations glory could challenge for the Ballon d’Or: “If you are not Messi or Ronaldo you have to win probably the Champions League, which we didn’t do yet so give us a few more weeks and then we will see where we end up.”
Mohamed Salah and Virgil van Dijk have been the most serious contenders for Golden Ball honours at Anfield in the recent past, but Mane has remained a model of consistency for the Reds. He has reached the 20-goal mark for the fourth time in the last five seasons, with his versatility being put to good use as the likes of Luis Diaz and Diogo Jota also compete for starting berths in a star-studded attacking unit.
Klopp added on Mane, who has been figuring as a striker of late, after seeing him wrap up a 2-0 victory over Villarreal that has given Liverpool one foot in the Champions League final:
“He can play left, he can play central, both positions world-class.
“He started for us here at Liverpool on the right wing. Some people in the room will remember his goal at Arsenal when it was his first goal, when he cut inside and fired the ball with his left foot into the far corner.
Absolutely outstanding, love it. “There are different ways that Sadio plays and sometimes we want him to drop slightly more, but today we wanted him to stay even more between the centre-halves, keep them away and offer the runs in behind. He has the skill set for it.”