Senegal winger Sadio Mane has revealed winning the Africa Cup of Nations championship is the happiest moment of his life.
The 29-year-old played a major part for the Lions of Teranga as they won their first-ever continental title in Cameroon when they defeated Egypt 4-2 on penalties following a 0-0 stalemate in normal and extra time.
Mane has been the most important player for Senegal from the tournament’s day one after he scored in the 1-0 win against Zimbabwe, stepped up to convert the winning penalty at Olembe Stadium on Sunday after his early effort had been saved by Egypt goalkeeper Gabaski.
Since joining Liverpool from Southampton in 2016, Mane has won the Premier League championship in 2020, Champions League in 2019, Uefa Super Cup in 2019, and Fifa Club World Cup in 2019 but according to him, the Afcon trophy is the most special.
“I am very proud and I think it is the best moment of my life ever. This day I think it is the best day. I won the Champions League and some trophies but I think this is the special one for me, this is more important for me,” Mane told GOAL after the game.
The former RB Salzburg midfielder scored three goals throughout the tournament — one in the 1-0 victory against the Warriors, another in the 2-0 victory over Cape Verde, and another in the 3-1 victory over Burkina Faso.
His total performance in Cameroon earned him the title of Most Outstanding Player at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations, while Egypt goalie Gabaski who saved two penalty kicks was voted the final’s best player.
Likewise, Edouard Mendy of Senegal was crowned the tournament’s outstanding goalkeeper after preserving five clean sheets, while Vincent Aboubakar of Cameroon was named the tournament’s Golden Boot winner after scoring eight goals for the Indomitable Lions.
Furthermore, former England player Jermaine Jenas lauded Mane for helping Senegal win their first-ever African Cup of Nations championship.
“Sadio [Mane] has put his country on his shoulders and given the title to them. This is Senegal’s golden generation and they have managed to do it, it is a big moment for the country,” Jenas told BBC Three as quoted by BBC Sport Africa.
“Mane hit that penalty without any doubt he would score, which is incredible with the pressure he was under. You can see Mane is a leader.
“We know he is a top, top footballer, but the growth in the player over the years was very visible today [Sunday] in the biggest moment of his life.”