Lionel Messi has heaped praise on Liverpool forward Sadio Mane and described it as ‘a shame’ that he finished fourth in the Ballon d’Or standings earlier this week.
Messi won the Ballon d’Or for the sixth time in his career in Paris on Monday, eclipsing Mane’s team-mate Virgil van Dijk to claim the gong. Cristiano Ronaldowas third, with Mane fourth and Mohamed Salah fifth.
The Barcelona star has paid tribute to Senegal star Mane though and explained why he voted for him for FIFA’s The Best award earlier in the year.
“It’s a shame to see Mane finish in fourth place,’ Messi told Canal+.
“But I think there have been a lot of great players this year. That’s why it was difficult to choose a particular player. But I chose Sadio Mane (for The Best award) because he’s a player that I like.
“Mane achieved a great year that was exceptional for the entire Liverpool team. That’s why I chose him.
“I repeat, there were a lot of very great players this year, so the choice was difficult,” he noted.
Mane proved his credentials as one of the top five players in world football with a sublime performance in the 5-2 Merseyside derby win over Everton on Wednesday night.
The winger was the only member of Liverpool’s famed front three to start the match at Anfield but made his presence known, scoring one and providing two assists.
Mane’s brilliant through-ball saw Divock Origi round Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford with one touch before rolling a shot into an empty net to open the scoring.
Trent Alexander-Arnold then picked out Mane before he cut inside and rolled a cute reverse pass into the path of Xherdan Shaqiri who made it 2-0.
The Senegalese star then grabbed his only goal of the evening when he put the finishing touches to a swift counter attack with a brilliant left-footed effort.