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Chronic. The African footballer has not made enough history. There is a reality behind this abduction of Nicolas Sarkozy’s infamous speech in Dakar in 2007: continental players have always suffered at a discount compared to Europeans and South Americans. Sadio Mané is one of the most striking examples.
The winner of the African Cup of Nations (CAN) with Senegal, second in the English Championship in February – the most controversial in the world – and in the Champions League final against Real Madrid, on Saturday 28 May at the Stade de France, the decisive Liverpool striker is the author of an exceptional season. He is therefore a natural candidate for the Golden Ball 2022, which will be awarded in October in Paris.
Yes, but the football planet has eyes only for Karim Benze, the fantastic nine of the “white house” – Real Madrid. He is even a big favorite for a trophy that rewards the best player in the world. His statistics speak for the French: “Pichichi” from La Liga (the top scorer with 27 goals), led and led his club to the title of Spanish champion and to the final of the Champions League. There is no debate or doubt for observers: Benzema must be the Golden Ball.
Why is there such a difference between these two stars? In addition to sporting affairs, recognition of his nationality and his continent is likely to be the real keys to Mane’s deficit.
In fact, the African footballer has already made history; but at peak times, almost a misunderstanding. With its doors ajar in 1995, the year in which the most prestigious individual award in world football was extended to players outside Europe. George Weah, the Paris-Saint-Germain (PSG) midfielder – and current Liberia president – was the winner. Then nothing, as if a symbol was enough once and for all.
As a reminder, during the 1994-1995 season, PSG placed third in the French Championship and was abruptly eliminated in the AC Milan Champions League semifinals, a club that the player then entered. That year against the Parisian, the competition was also less brilliant. Weah’s record has nothing to compare with Mane’s record, whose trophy cabinet has been filled with the most prestigious cups over the years.
Sadio Mané’s triumphs include CAN, which was torn from a tough fight against Egypt by his club teammate Mohamed Salah and who was named the best player. By showing the remarkable strength of the character, the one who did not miss the penalty at the beginning of the match scored the winning one in the penalty shootout. What will earn him a prize in the race for the title of the best player in the world? No, because African competition doesn’t weigh as much as Euro or Copa America.
Of course, we recognize that the European tournament is the densest. But what about South America? Nevertheless, Lionel Messi won the Golden Ball in 2021, mainly due to Argentina’s victory over Copa. His club season was indescribable, individually and collectively, with statistics and results well below his standards. Barcelona, his club at the time, finished only third in La Liga and was swept away by PSG in the Champions League round of 16. The Spanish Cup was just a modest price of season consolation at half mast.
CAN does not count
The first CAN won by Senegal Sadio Mané is therefore not as valuable as the Copa America that Messi has won, or even the League of Nations – a small-scale competition – that Benzema has won with France this season. What’s worse is that CAN doesn’t count. It may even hurt him, because when Mané won his national team in Cameroon, he was not in the spotlight with his club in Europe. If the Senegalese dribbler were English, he would probably be seen more in line with his true level. On the contrary, if Karim Benzema chose the Algerian choice, could his nationality reduce his extraordinary performance?
The burden of the African makes it easier for him to recognize his talent. The way we look at it is colored by the benevolence with which we explore the continent. In the best of all worlds, the Champions League final between Karim Benzema and Sadie Manem should decide which of these two huge champions will lift the most coveted individual trophy in the world of football. If an African footballer has not made enough history, it is because others are erasing or writing in his place.
Mabrouck Rachedi is a Franco-Algerian writer whose passion for football was born at the age of 6 during the Algeria-RFA match at the 1982 World Cup. All the words we didn’t say ed., Grasset, Jan. 26.