Wantaway Liverpool forward Sadio Mane deserves to be in contention to win the Ballon d’Or, says Patrick Vieira.
Mane, who has been widely linked with a move to German champions Bayern Munich after Liverpool announced the signing of Benfica attacker Darwin Nunez, scored 23 goals as the Reds won the EFL Cup and FA Cup last season.
He was also decisive as Senegal claimed their first Africa Cup of Nations title in February before leading his national team to World Cup qualification the following month.
Those exploits have led to suggestions he could compete with Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema to be named the world’s best player later this year, and Arsenal legend and Crystal Palace manager Vieira thinks his wide-ranging abilities put him in contention.
“Sadio Mane is part of the new generation of attackers who knows how to do everything,” Vieira told the Diambars Institute, a football academy in Senegal.
“He scores goals, he knows how to defend, he knows how to run in depth. He is a hard worker in the field.
“He is one of the modern attackers. For me, he should be considered for the Ballon d’Or.
“He is one of those great players who can win it. I saw him every weekend in the Premier League and for me, he is one of the great European strikers.”
Having won six trophies in a six-year spell at Anfield, Mane is expected to move to Bayern in the current transfer window, perhaps as a replacement for Barcelona-linked striker Robert Lewandowski.
Asked about such rumours, Vieira said Mane will make the best decision for his career.
“I think he has his head on his shoulders to make the best decision,” the Frenchman added.
“Should he stay or go? It’s up to him to make that decision. But he is a player that I admire in relation to his talent as a footballer, but also in relation to his talent as a man.”