Top 5 Contenders to Follow in Sadio Mané’s;– Since 2017, Liverpool’s former “false twins,” Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah, have been passing the title of “African Player of the Year” between them. However, in the coming months, another footballer is poised to lift the African Ballon d’Or. Here are the top 5 favorites to succeed the Senegalese African champion.
Sadio Mané’s Reign Ends
Having secured victory in the last two editions, Sadio Mané has faced setbacks in 2023. InstagramTwitterFacebookEmailRSSFollow by Email Undoubtedly, the CAF calendar is among the most unpredictable in football confederations. It remains uncertain whether the Caf Awards ceremony will take place in July, as it did last year, or if it will revert to its usual period of December-January. What is certain is that if it were based solely on the overall season, the two-time reigning champion, Sadio Mané, would be out of the running for the 2023 Ballon d’Or. Departing from Bayern Munich last summer, the Senegalese player was sidelined for four months due to injury.
Top 5 Contenders to Follow in Sadio Mané’s
André Onana (Goalkeeper / Inter Milan / Cameroon)
Following Edouard Mendy’s 2021 triumph with Chelsea, another African goalkeeper is set to feature in the UEFA Champions League final on June 10. Cameroonian Andre Onana will be representing Inter Milan against the same opponent, Manchester City. Will he replicate the success of Chelsea’s shot-stopper? Inter fans are undoubtedly hopeful to relive the euphoria they experienced in 2010.
At that time, Cameroonian legend Samuel Eto’o significantly contributed to Milan’s Champions League victory. A few months later, he secured his fourth and final African Ballon d’Or. A similar trajectory might be followed by André Onana. Despite being dismissed from the national squad during the 2022 World Cup and subsequently boycotting the selection, Onana has amassed impressive points with Inter Milan.
Joining as a free agent from Ajax, he quickly displaced the established Samir Handanovič. The Indomitable Lion showcases reflex saves, game-reading abilities, and ball-playing finesse. Already triumphing in the Supercup and the Italian Cup, he has achieved 19 clean sheets, including 8 in 12 appearances in the UEFA Champions League, out of 39 games.
Youssef En-Nesyri (Forward / Sevilla / Morocco)
Youssef En-Nesyri’s inclusion among the top 5 may come as a slight surprise, yet his presence is well-deserved upon closer examination. En-Nesyri has consistently proven decisive in significant matches, both at the international level and for his club. His role in guiding Morocco to the semi-finals of the 2022 World Cup, highlighted by a crucial header against Portugal (1-0), showcases his impact.
En-Nesyri’s prowess extends beyond the World Cup, as he shines on the European stage. While less luminous in La Liga with 8 goals in 31 matches, he leads Sevilla in the Europa League. Notably, he equalized at Old Trafford in the dying minutes (2-2) before sealing Manchester United’s fate (2-0) a week later in Andalusia with a brace. A victory for Sevilla against AS Roma in the Europa League final, coupled with his outstanding performance, could position the former Mohamed VI Academy player as a strong contender for the 2023 African Ballon d’Or. Notably, he surpasses his compatriots Achraf Hakimi (PSG) and Yassine Bounou (Sevilla), who had commendable World Cup showings but slightly dimmer club performances.
Mohamed Salah (Winger, Liverpool, Egypt)
Despite being weighed down by injuries to Luis Diaz and Diogo Jota, Sadio Mané’s departure, and the dip in the form of key players like Virgil Van Dijk, Fabihno, and Trent Arnold, Mohamed Salah has once again distinguished himself. While lacking his usual explosive burst and execution speed to dismantle defensive lines, Salah boasts statistics that many forwards envy.
The Egyptian forward scored 30 goals and delivered 15 assists in 50 appearances across all competitions. No African player has proven as decisive as him this season. While this might not be enough to secure a third African Ballon d’Or after his 2017 and 2018 victories, it certainly keeps him in contention.
Victor Osimhen (Forward, Napoli, Nigeria)
Victor Osimhen has lived a historic and unforgettable season. Twenty-three years after their last triumph, Napoli secured the Italian championship title. The Super Eagles striker played a pivotal role in this remarkable achievement. Despite a severe eye injury necessitating a protective mask for over a year, Osimhen emerged as Napoli’s savior. With 23 goals in Serie A, he became both the top African scorer in a Serie A season and the all-time top African scorer in the league’s history. In the process, he surpassed illustrious African Ballon d’Or winners Samuel Eto’o and George Weah.
To date, Victor Osimhen’s performances have left an indelible mark on the collective consciousness of African football enthusiasts. If CAF were to open the voting in the coming days, the Super Eagle would undoubtedly soar to the top of the rankings. It would mark the first time a Nigerian clinches the African Ballon d’Or since Nwanko Kanu in 1999—a remarkable achievement for Africa’s most populous nation, which saw four different winners between 1993 and 1997 (Yekini, Amuniké, Kanu, and Ikpeba).
Riyad Mahrez (Winger, Manchester City, Algeria)
Riyad Mahrez’s situation is somewhat the inverse of Mohamed Salah’s. Unlike the Egyptian, Mahrez’s statistics this season are not remarkable. However, Manchester City’s remarkable journey in contrast to Liverpool’s misfortunes has turned heads. Clinching their fifth Premier League title, City might add the FA Cup on June 3 and the prestigious UEFA Champions League on June 10. If City accomplishes this feat, the Algerian Fennec will hold a strong advantage in the race for the 2023 African Ballon d’Or. Despite not being as decisive as the previous season (24 goals and 9 assists), Riyad Mahrez boasts 15 goals and 13 assists.
Also in the Running for the 2023 African Ballon d’Or: Zambo Anguissa (Midfielder, Napoli, Cameroon), Séko Fofana (Midfielder, Lens, Ivory Coast), Sébastien Haller (Forward, Dortmund, Ivory Coast), Achraf Hakimi (Defender, PSG, Morocco), Thomas Partey (Midfielder, Arsenal, Ghana).”
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