This article is part of Football FanCast’s Opinion series, which provides analysis, insight and opinion on any issue within the beautiful game, from Paul Pogba’s haircuts to League Two relegation battles…
Even as he approaches the twilight of his career, Lionel Messi is showing no signs of slowing down.
The 32-year-old was on fire once again last term, scoring 51 goals in 50 matches as he helped Barcelona to another La Liga title. Not only that, he also contributed 22 assists as well. Those tremendous displays for his club earned him the Ballon d’Or, the sixth of his career. Whilst it may have been his smallest margin of victory to date – he pipped Virgil van Dijk to the trophy by just seven votes – it is hard to argue that he doesn’t deserve to take the individual accolade home once again after such an incredible year.
In regards to the rest of the placings, Liverpool were very well represented. No less than four players made it into the top seven of the final ranking, whilst a further three finished in the top 30. Of those, Sadio Mane was fourth on the list.
There were several people in the world of football who thought the 61-time Senegal international star should have won the trophy – including Messi himself. The Argentina forward, of course, voted for Mane in the FIFA The Best award, and he said after he received his accolade from France Football (Canal+ via Metro): “It’s a shame to see Mane finish in fourth place.”
It was an impressive year indeed for the 5 foot 9 former Southampton man. He scored 26 goals in all competitions for the Reds – which saw him win the Premier League Golden Boot – and he also got his hands on the Champions League as well. Not only that, he also contributed to his country’s run to the African Cup of Nations final, which they unfortunately lost to Algeria. Given his displays, there is a case to be made that he could have challenged for the golden ball.
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However, Messi’s words should be good enough for the 27-year-old. Here, we are talking about perhaps the best player to have ever walked the earth. And in his eyes, Mane was the star performer in the sport over the past 12 months.
Whilst it would certainly have been nice to have won the prestigious award, receiving such lofty praise is a more than good enough consolation prize. To be recognised by the very best in the sport surely has more value than the votes of those journalists who voted for the award – especially when you see the choices of the Sri Lankan representative, for example. If that isn’t good enough for Mane, then we aren’t quite sure what is.
In other news, one Liverpool youngster is a target for two Bundesliga outfits.