Sadio Mane went to sleep on Sunday night with his Africa Cup of Nations winner’s medal around his neck and the trophy under his arm, after triumph with Senegal.
With the AFCON final set up as a clash between Liverpool’s two attacking icons, it was fitting that one of Mane or Mohamed Salah dominated the evening.
Though Salah is widely considered the best player in the world, the No. 11 often struggled to produce his finest in Cameroon partly due to the lack of quality around them.
Senegal were favourites heading into the final as Aliou Cisse was able to field a side full of elite talent, with Mane at the heart of his attack.
It was Mane who led the narrative in Olembe, first seeing his penalty saved in normal time and, after escaping a red card for simulation as the game went through to extra time, scoring the winning spot-kick in the shootout.
SADIO MANE WINS IT FOR SENEGAL!!! ? pic.twitter.com/jtdB8hYXOJ
— Sky Sports Football (@SkyFootball) February 6, 2022
Only two players – Cameroon duo Karl Toko Ekambi (five) and Vincent Aboubakar (eight) – scored more goals than Mane (three) throughout the tournament, and his heroics earned him the Man of the Competition award.
As Senegal’s leading light, Mane is a revered figure in his home country, and though he is not the captain, he was given the honour of keeping the AFCON trophy safe.
In scenes reminiscent of Sir Kenny Dalglish and the European Cup, Mane shared a series of photos on his Instagram showing him in bed with the trophy:
“Alhamdoulilah!” the forward wrote, which translates to “thank god!” in English.
It is a huge achievement for Mane, and for his country, who before Sunday had never won the Africa Cup of Nations, coming up against Egypt who had won it more than any other nation but Cameroon.
Liverpool’s No. 10 is a hero in Senegal, and the celebrations went into the night as Mane and his team-mates marked an incredible occasion.
The 29-year-old is now due to return to Merseyside later this week, with Jurgen Klopp revealing that the plan is for runner-up Salah to arrive slightly earlier than Mane.
However, while he added that he “thinks they will be available” for the visit of Leicester on Thursday night, it seems unlikely they will be heavily involved if at all.