Why Sadio Mané should have finished higher than Cristiano Ronaldo in the Ballon d'Or rankings
- Here's a look into Mané's podium snub.
Lionel Messi was awarded the Ballon d'Or for a record sixth time in Paris on 2 December 2019 and deservedly so. In the closest vote ever, Virgil van Dijk finished second with Cristiano Ronaldo coming in a distant third.
Much was made about Ronaldo's absence from the ceremony as Luka Modrić was present to hand over the award to Messi, without making the final shortlist. Not enough people noticed the absence of Sadio Mané, who finished fourth in the Ballon d'Or vote.
It is a remarkable improvement for a player who finished 22nd in 2018. To stand out in a team, which is set up in a way that Mohamed Salah is the primary goalscorer, is a laudable feat. Such was his impact during the year that he could very well have made the podium instead of Ronaldo.
Comparing their individual seasons, Mané finished with 26 goals and 5 assists whereas Ronaldo ended the season with 28 goals and 10 assists. Since the Portuguese is the primary set-piece taker for club and country, his haul included six penalties.
For a multitude of reasons ranging from new teammates and style of play to lack of service, Ronaldo couldn't put up the numbers we have come to expect of him. In Serie A, he finished fourth in the top scorer rankings behind 36-year-old Fabio Quagliarella, Duván Zapata and Krzysztof Piątek.
Once you factor in the achievements of the collective, the difference is even more pronounced. Mané played a key role in Liverpool's Champions League victory. In one of the tightest titles races ever, Liverpool finished second in the Premier League with 97 points, losing just once all season. It was the highest ever points haul by a runner-up. At international level, he played an important role in Senegal's run to the final in the Africa Cup of Nations 2019. To provide some context, Senegal have reached the final just once before that, in 2002.
Before signing Ronaldo, Juventus had won four consecutive domestic doubles. In fact, they had won seven straight league titles. No matter his stunning impact on social media numbers and the business side of the club, he was brought it in to deliver the Champions League as the side from Turin fell at the final hurdle on two separate occasions. Finishing 11 points clear of second-placed Napoli, the league title was always a near certainty. However, for the first time in five seasons, Juventus did not win the Coppa Italia, losing to Atalanta in the quarter-final stage. It was a similar story in the Champions League as the Italian side lost in the quarter-final against Ajax.
While Ronaldo did win the UEFA Nations League with Portugal in June 2019, it comes with a caveat. He skipped the group stage of the tournament completely and started for the side directly in the semi-final against Switzerland. As a result, he played only 2 games in the whole tournament.
AFCON is the African-equivalent of the Euros, whereas the UEFA Nations League has been introduced as a replacement for international friendlies in the FIFA International Match Calendar.
In addition, the Ballon d'Or vote considered performances until 6 November 2019. Mané has been in even better form this season with Liverpool setting the pace in the league while the Portuguese captain has been overshadowed by his Argentine teammates at Juventus.
It is clear that Mané may have been a victim of Liverpool's success. With Van Dijk, Salah and Alisson, Liverpool have four players in the top 10. Psychologically, it is easier for neutrals and voters to credit one player for a side's success and transformation. Van Dijk's rise in stature and push for the award due to his impact on Liverpool could have inadvertently affected Mané's chances in the voting.
Ronaldo's legacy is legendary, but this is merely a question of who was better over the past year. All things considered, it is indeed a shame that Mané finished fourth instead of on the podium. The Ballon d'Or winner agrees with me on this one.Published 09 Dec 2019, 10:05 IST