“Sadio Mané is a natural candidate for the Golden Ball, but the football world looks only at Karim Benzema”

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Senegal representative Sadio Mané at the African Cup of Nations in Yaoundé, February 6, 2022.

Chronic. The African footballer did not make history enough. Behind this kidnapping of the infamous Nicolas Sarkozy speech at the Dakar in 2007 is reality: continental players have always been given a discount compared to Europeans and South Americans. Sadio Mané is one of the most striking examples.

African Nations Cup (CAN) winner with Senegal in February, second in the England championship – the most controversial in the world – and in the Champions League final against Real Madrid on Saturday 28 May at the Stade de France, Liverpool’s decisive forward is the author of an exceptional season. It is therefore a natural candidate for the 2022 Golden Ball, which will be presented in Paris in October.

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Yes, but the football planet is looking only at Karim Benzema, the fantastic nine of the “white house” – Real Madrid. He is even a huge favorite for a trophy that awards the best player in the world. His stats speak in favor of the French: La Liga’s “Pichichi” (top scorer with 27 goals) led and led his club to the Spanish championship and the Champions League final. For observers, there is no debate or doubt: Benzema has to be a Golden Ball.

Why is there such a difference in the considerations between these two stars? Aside from sports matters, his nationality and continent are perhaps the real keys to Mané’s recognition deficit.

On the fingers

In fact, the African footballer is now history; but on tiptoe, almost on a misunderstanding. Through a ajar door in 1995, in which the most prestigious individual award in world football was awarded to players from outside Europe. The winner was George Weah, center-forward Paris-Saint-Germain (PSG) – and the current president of Liberia. Then nothing, as if the symbol was enough once and for all.

Recall that in the 1994-1995 season, PSG finished third in the French championship and was suddenly rejected in the Champions League semi-finals by AC Milan, the club he joined at the time. This year, the rivalry with the Parisian was also less brilliant. The Weah record cannot match that of Mané, whose trophy cabinet has been filled over the years with the most prestigious cups.

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Among the triumphs of Sadio Mané, CAN, snatched from a tough fight against Egypt by his club teammate Mohamed Salah, who was named the best player. Showing extraordinary strength of character, the one who missed the penalty shot at the start of the match scored the winner in the penalty shootout. What will bring him a bonus in the race for the title of the best player in the world? No, because African competition does not weigh as much as Euro or Copa America.

Of course, we will consider the European tournament to be the densest. What about South America? Even so, Lionel Messi won the 2021 Golden Ball thanks largely to Argentina’s Copa win. His club season was indefinite, individually and collectively, with stats and results well below his standards. Barcelona, ​​his club at the time, only finished third in La Liga and was swept by PSG in the 16th round of the Champions League. The Spanish Cup was just a modest consolation prize for the half mast season.

CAN doesn’t count

The first CAN won by Senegal’s Sadio Mané is therefore not worth as much as the Copa America won by Messi, or even the Nations League – a competition of little value – that Benzema won against France this season. Worse, CAN doesn’t count. Perhaps it even hurts 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 more in line with his true level. On the contrary, if Karim Benzema chose an Algerian selection, could his nationality detract from his extraordinary achievements?

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The weight of an African man softens him in recognition of his talent. The way we look at it is colored by the condescension with which we view the continent. In the best of all possible worlds, the Champions League final between Karim Benzema and Sadio Mané should decide which of these two huge champions will win the most coveted individual trophy in the world of football. If an African footballer hasn’t made enough history, it’s because others elsewhere are erasing or writing him 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. Last novel: All the words we didn’t say to each other ed. Grasset, January 26.

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