Senegal's Sadio Mane receives the men's player of the year award (Reuters)
Senegal's star winger Sadio Mané said he would swap his recent African Player of the Year award for the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) title, adding that his country has a strong squad that will be competing for the prestigious continental title next edition in 2021.
The 27-year-old winger was named African Player of the Year for the first time on Tuesday in a glitzy gala held at Sahl Hasheesh resort on the Red Sea.
"I am very happy and proud for winning this award. I would like to thank my teammates in the national team and Liverpool for helping me this season," Mané said at the press conference held after the gala.
"Riyad Mahrez is a good player and he delivered an outstanding performance, but my performance was also a good one this season. The award went to the one who deserved to win. There are some details that settle the matter and also the experts have their say.
"Sure I want to swap this award with the Africa Cup of Nations title. Certainly the continental title is better for me than any other thing in football," he added.
Mané was rewarded for some splendid displays in 2019 for club and country to beat Liverpool teammate and Egypt star Mohamed Salah and Algeria's Riyad Mahrez.
Mané was the Premier League's joint top scorer with 23 goals last season, on level with Salah and Arsenal's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, as Liverpool finished runners-up to champions Manchester City only by the virtue of a single point following a thrilling race.
He and Salah also led Liverpool to their first European Champions League title since 2005 and both made fine starts to the new term in the second half of the calendar year, scoring 10 and nine Premier League goals respectively.
But Mané still went one better than Salah on the international level, which might have proved crucial in the Confederation of African Football vote by coaches and captains of national teams.
He scored three goals and provided an assist as Senegal reached the AFCON final in Egypt while the hosts suffered an embarrassing last-16 exit, although Salah still managed to net two goals.
"I hope that I win both prizes together (the African Player of the Year and the AFCON) in the future. Senegal have a strong team and we will be back in next edition to compete for the title," Mané concluded.
Mahrez, who came in third in the vote, steered Algeria to a Nations Cup crown and won with City a second straight Premier League title, but he might have paid the price of struggling for regular football with the Citizens this term.
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