The Confederation of African Football awards each year the African Ballon d’Or trophy which distinguishes the best footballer of the year in the continent. North African footballers have always been the least crowned compared to other parts of Africa.
Morocco, the most successful North African country
Indeed, of the 56 editions of “Best African Player” and “African Golden Ball” combined, only ten North Africans have lifted the trophy. A low rate compared to other countries such as Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana which make up the podium. They are four Moroccans, three Algerians, two Egyptians and a Tunisian to have received this distinction. Only Mohamed Salah had it twice in 2017 and 2018.
After absolute dominance over the past two decades for players from sub-Saharan Africa in the continent’s best player award, Algerian Ryad Mahrez managed to break this monopoly and was titled in 2016. Egyptian Mohamed Salah won continued the awakening of Arab players in recent years, winning the award for the best African player of the year in 2017 and 2018, becoming the second Egyptian and the tenth North African to receive this award.
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Some technicians believe that the decline of North African football in recent years has contributed to the players’ distance from the African Ballon d’Or podium. To which we add the absence of Egypt, Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia from the CAN podium in recent years.
Sadio Mané preferred to Riyad Mahrez and Mohamed Salah
Sadio Mané has won the African Golden Ball twice in a row ahead of the Algerian Riyad Mahrez in 2019 and the Egyptian Mohamed Salah in 2022. Two titles that are debated.
If the main criterion to take into account is the prize list and team statistics, Mohamed Salah would have deserved this title. Teammates in club, Salah and Mané necessarily won the same titles, namely the two local clubs in England (FA Cup and EFL Cup) and narrowly missed the Premier League title as well as the Champions League (defeat in the final against the Real Madrid), but on an individual level, the Pharaoh lit up the lawns across the Channel by scoring 31 goals and delivering 16 assists in 51 games.
Sadio Mané has only scored 23 goals and provided only 5 assists while playing the same number of games as Salah. Bonus for Salah, he was named Premier League player of the season, in addition to the title of joint scorer in the English championship with South Korean Son Heung-min. All of this should have tipped the scales for the former AS Roma striker, but there are performances in the national team that pleaded for Sadio Mané.
The year 2022 is an African Cup year, so inevitably, the winner must be the one who shone in this tournament. This is what several observers will say who defend the merit of Sadio Mané for this title. But, we recall that Riyad Mahrez, African champion in 2019, did not win this trophy, which went to Sadio Mané that year. However, the Fennec was exceptional during this competition, offering the title to his country. Sadio Mané took advantage of two divergent criteria, first in 2019 when he was elected for his individual statistics ahead of African champion Mahrez, then in 2022 when the roles were reversed with Mohamed Salah.
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North African players who have won the trophy:
1- Ahmed Faras (Morocco – 1975)
2- Tarek Dhiab (Tunisia – 1977)
3- Lakhdar Belloumi (Algeria – 1981)
4- Mahmoud Al Khatib (Egypt – 1983)
5- Mohamed Timoumi (Morocco – 1985)
6- Badou Zaki (Morocco – 1986).
7- Rabah Madjer (Algeria – 1987)
8- Mustapha Hadji (Morocco – 1998)
9- Riyad Mahrez (Algeria – 2016)
10- Mohamed Salah (Egypt – 2017 and 2018)
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