Liverpool’s Sadio Mane has been named the Confederation of African Football’s (Caf) Player of the Year.
The Senegal forward beat Liverpool team-mate and Egypt forward Mohamed Salah and Manchester City’s Algerian winger Riyad Mahrez to the award.
Mane, 27, helped the Reds to the 2018-19 Champions League title, scoring 30 goals in all competitions last season.
He has scored 15 goals so far in 2019-20, with Liverpool 13 points clear at the top of the Premier League table.
“I’m really happy and proud to win this. Football is my job, I love it,” said Mane.
“I would like to thank my family, my national team, staff, the federation and Liverpool Football Club. It’s a big day for me.”
Mane collected his award at a ceremony in Hurghada, Egypt but neither Salah, who had won the award in both the past two years nor Mahrez were present.
Mane has finished in the award’s top three for the last three years and has long targeted the prize in order to emulate the achievement of one of his heroes, former Liverpool striker El Hadji Diouf, who won it in 2002.
Premier League well represented in African best XI – the other awards
Mahrez did win one award – the African goal of the year for a free-kick he scored for Algeria against Nigeria in his country’s Afcon semi-final victory.
Salah, Mane and Mahrez all made the African best XI team, along with three other Premier League-based players – Liverpool centre-half Joel Matip, Tottenham right-back Serge Aurier and Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
African best XI: Andre Onana (Ajax/Cameroon), Achraf Hakimi (Borussia Dortmund/Morocco), Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli/Senegal), Joel Matip (Liverpool/Cameroon), Serge Aurier (Tottenham/Ivory Coast), Riyad Mahrez (Manchester City/Algeria), Idrissa Gana Gueye (Paris St-Germain/Senegal), Hakim Ziyech (Ajax/Morocco), Mohamed Salah (Liverpool/Egypt), Sadio Mane (Liverpool/Senegal), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal/Gabon)
Morocco right-back Achraf Hakimi, 21, who plays for Borussia Dortmund on loan from Real Madrid, was the winner of the Youth Player of the Year award.
Nigeria and Barcelona forward Asisat Oshoala was named the African Women’s Player of the Year ahead of Valerenga and Cameroon forward Ajara Nchout and Beijing BG Phoenix and South Africa forward Thembi Kgatlana.
Cameroon, who lost 3-0 to England in the last 16 of the 2019 Women’s World Cup, picked up the prize for African Women’s National Team of the Year, with Africa Cup of Nations winners Algeria taking the men’s honour.
Djamel Belmadi, who guided Algeria to the Afcon title, won Men’s Coach of the Year, with Diseree Ellis, the coach of the South Africa national team, winning the women’s award.
Analysis – a very special moment for Mane
This will be a very emotional moment for Sadio Mane. He once told me that his two heroes growing up were Ronaldinho and El Hadji Diouf, who is the only other Senegal player to have won the African Footballer of the Year prize before.
Diouf was part of Senegal’s famous 2002 World Cup team that made a big impression on Mane watching on from home as an impressionable 11-year-old.
So after narrowly missing out for the last three years, finally winning that trophy back for Senegal will be very special. He’s always been extremely keen to make his fans in his home country happy and never forgets where he came from. Now, the next target will surely be the Ballon d’Or prize.
When I last interviewed him he was very modest about being a contender for that award but I think it’ll be in his sights in the next few years. Remember, he was Lionel Messi’s number one choice last year.