AFCON 2021: Mané a Strong Contender for Tournament MVP

After a poor start to the tournament, Sadio Mané has risen to the occasion for Senegal, playing a crucial role in their run up to the final of the 33rd edition of the African Cup of Nations.

Mané scored Senegal’s only goal in the group stages, a penalty in the 97th minute of their first group game. Since then, he has scored three goals and provided two assists as Senegal put eight goals past their opponents in the three knockout games leading up to the Final.

Mané’s rise to the occasion has seen African football fans increase the calls for him to be made the tournament’s most valuable player even if Senegal do not end up winning the competition.

From a logical standpoint, the calls for Mane to be awarded MVP make sense as Senegal’s marked improvement is due to Mane settling into the tournament and manager Aliou Cissé reworking his tactics to suit the 29-year-old’s key strengths.

There is also the fact that Mané braved through a probable concussion when he clashed heads with Cape Verde goalkeeper Vozinha in Senegal’s Round of 16 game to provide the lift which the team needed to run riot in the rest of the knockout games.

If there is one thing that football fans love, it is a player who turns up in the big games; a player who turns up when the stakes are highest. Mané not only provided the lifeline which helped the Teranga Lions narrowly enter the knockout rounds, but kick-started their ascent back to the top of the food chain in African football.

However, the AFCON LOC and CAF will have to ignore the three group stage games where Mané – along with the rest of the Senegal team – played badly and focus on only the knockout rounds. Those three games account for 43 percent of the games Senegal have played in this tournament, meaning that he may be given the MVP award based on on 57 percent of games played.

In contrast, Cameroon’s Vincent Aboubakar and Karl Toko-Ekambi have both been sensational for the Indomitable Lions in the tournament, even up to their unfortunate semifinal loss to former Roma man Mohamed Salah’s Egypt.

The Final, however, will be a big factor in the decisions, but Mané can count himself lucky to be in the discussions this term on the back of his impressive performances in the business end of the tournament.