Friday 30 August 2019, 09:52

El Hadji Diouf rooting for Mane and Salah

  • George Weah is the sole African winner of FIFA's top individual prize

  • Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah now hope to match his feat

  • Both players have the support of Senegal legend El Hadji Diouf

It is 24 years since an African player last won FIFA's highest individual honour, when George Weah was crowned FIFA World Player of the Year. Since the launch of The Best FIFA Football Awards™ in 2016, one player from the continent has been in the running to match the Liberian great each year, but Riyad Mahrez, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mohamed Salah all ended up falling short in their respective races.

"Anyone who follows football closely will tell you that their presence in the top ten is not even up for debate," says El Hadji Diouf, sharing his verdict with "But beyond the logic of it, it's also nice to see. They are both wonderful standard-bearers for African football. We're very proud of them."

The Best of El Hadji Diouf

  • Your favourite memory as a player? The 2002 World Cup, and in particular the win against France.

  • The best player you played with? Jay-Jay Okocha at Bolton. He could do absolutely everything with the ball.

  • The best player you came up against? Myself. I was my own best and worst enemy!

  • The best goalkeeper you faced? Tony Silva, who managed to be decisive in big games.

  • The best coach you worked with? Bruno Metsu and Sam Allardyce. Everything comes down to management, and they were the best at that.

"You can't have one without the other," says Diouf. "One of them's left-footed (Salah) and the other's right-footed (Mane). Sadio needs Mo like Mo needs Sadio. They have the same qualities: speed of execution and skill in their final touch. Salah is perhaps a little more effective in front of goal because he puts in less defensive work than Mane, but I'll say it again: you can't have one without the other."

Sadio Mane of Liverpool and Mohamed Salah of Liverpool warm up

" is following in my footsteps," says Diouf. "He's doing an incredible job. He's a fantastic ambassador for Senegal. Now he has a chance to write his own story. And on top of being a superb player, he's also a great guy – humble, generous and always available for other people. We have a special relationship."

The Best of El Hadji Diouf

  • The club you remember most fondly? Lens, the French Liverpool. The supporters there are exceptional.

  • Your favourite goal? That would be the most important goal of my career: the one against Morocco that put Senegal in the World Cup. It was a cross from Ferdinand Coly and a half-volley by El Hadji Diouf.

  • The greatest African player of all time? George Weah. What he did was incredible.

  • The best Senegalese player of all time? That's me, of course! I'm the only Senegalese player to have won African Footballer of the Year twice and I did it without going flat out.

  • The greatest player of all time? Leo Messi: better than Pele, better than Maradona … and even better than me! (Laughs) What he can do is beyond remarkable. He's an extra-terrestrial.