Arsene Wenger: Sadio Mane the 'Outstanding Character' for the Ballon d'Or

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistOctober 18, 2019

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 05: Sadio Mane of Liverpool during the Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Leicester City at Anfield on October 5, 2019 in Liverpool, United Kingdom. (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images)
Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

Former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger believes Liverpool forward Sadio Mane is the "outstanding character" for the 2019 Ballon d'Or. 

Earlier in the year, Barcelona's Lionel Messi was crowned FIFA's Best Men's Player, beating Mane's team-mate Virgil van Dijk and Juventus' Cristiano Ronaldo to the accolade. The Senegal international was fifth in the voting, with fellow Liverpool star Mohamed Salah fourth.

The Best Men's Player award is one of two prizes to determine the best footballer on the planet, with France Football's Ballon d'Or still to come. In a question and answer session with beIN Sports (h/t Mark Jones of the Daily Mirror), Wenger said he thinks Mane should be the winner.

"Mane was the outstanding character, I would say—because he is a fighter...and efficient," said the ex-Gunners boss. "He's not scared of anybody. At the moment, he deserves huge credit."

Per Jones, while Mane is set to finish high in the voting once again, it's anticipated Messi and Van Dijk will be the leading contenders for the prize.

Few could argue if Mane did finish top of the voting though, as he has enjoyed an extraordinary 2019 for the Merseyside club. The Senegalese forward recently brought up a half-century of Premier League goals for the Reds with the opener in the 2-1 win over Leicester City:

Per Sky Sports Statto, the speed at which Mane has reached this landmark is indicative of the improvements he's made throughout his Liverpool career:

The fact Mane is being talked about alongside the likes of Messi and Van Dijk as one of the best players in the world is testament to his determination and talent, as well as the work done by manager Jurgen Klopp with him on the training pitch.

After all, when Mane joined Liverpool from Southampton there were still erratic areas in his game, most notably in terms of decision making when he advanced into dangerous positions. Now he's composed and ruthless when chances come his way.

Given his stellar form, recognition and praise has followed. Current Monaco midfielder Cesc Fabregas, who was Wenger's former captain at Arsenal, also talked up Mane recently:

There's no doubt Mane will be looking to improve his game too. Ahead of Sunday's showdown with Manchester United, ESPN FC looked at one area he may be able to make strides:

Even so, at the moment Mane is on an upward trajectory. After netting 22 goals last season he was the joint-top-scorer in the Premier League and with five already in the current campaign, he's on course for the Golden Boot again.

This year may be a little too early for Mane to be named as the best player on the planet, with the 30-man shortlist set to be confirmed on Monday. But should he continue to improve and fire Liverpool to glory in 2019-20, the Reds No. 10 will be a serious contender in 2020.

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