Villarreal midfielder Francis Coquelin has claimed that Liverpool pair Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah could win this year’s Ballon d’Or.
Coquelin was speaking to The Guardian ahead of the Champions League semi-final first-leg at Anfield tomorrow. Asked for his thoughts on Liverpool’s squad, Coquelin said he can’t see any weaknesses.
“Liverpool are probably the team that press best. I can’t really see where their weaknesses are,” he said.
“They attack so well and now they have [Ibrahima] Konate competing with [Joel] Matip. The left-back and the right-back are like strikers basically. They have two players who fight for Ballon d’Or, [Mohamed] Salah and [Sadio] Mane. Now they’ve signed Luis Diaz and he settles in like he has been there five years.”
Don’t forget the small matter of Virgil Van Dijk, Alisson Becker, Fabinho and Thiago Alcantara too, Francis!
Salah and Mane lead the charge for Liverpool
The Ballon d’Or will now be chosen based on performance over a season, rather than a calendar year. As a result, talk has already begun of who will be next to scoop the games most prestigious individual award.
After a poor season last time around, Mohamed Salah was Liverpool’s sole representative in the 30-strong shortlist last year. To his dismay, the Egyptian finished in 7th place in the voting.
This time, The Reds look sure to have more nominees. If Liverpool can end the season strongly, there’s every chance that either Mane or Salah could be on the podium.
Mane was even listed as being one of the favourites by L’Equipe earlier this month. Earlier in the campaign that would have seemed almost laughable, but the 30-year-old carried Senegal on his back to win the AFCON trophy and has been excellent for Liverpool ever since.
Despite a recent dip in form, Salah has had a fantastic individual season, scoring 30 times for Liverpool so far.
Don’t write off The Reds
Others such as Alisson Becker, Virgil Van Dijk and Trent Alexander-Arnold have featured on the shortlist before and should do again.
Meanwhile, Diogo Jota has had an excellent season both at club and international level, too. Fabinho has been as good as ever and Luis Diaz has had a breakout year.
The early front-runner looks to be Real Madrid’s irrepressible striker Karim Benzema. As we know though, a lot of the voting tends to rest on trophies won, and on the Champions League in particular.
If Liverpool can collect ‘Ol’ Big Ears’ for a seventh time on May 28th, Mane, Salah and the rest of The Reds’ hopefuls will instantly improve their chances of being crowned the best footballer on the planet.