The former Arsenal academy graduate feels the Liverpool forward trumps even El Hadji Diouf when it comes to Senegalese greats…
Star Liverpool forward Sadio Mane is in red hot form right now, having helped the Reds end their Premier League title drought in style last season.
With 18 goals and seven assists, Mane’s brilliance upfront was a key asset to Jurgen Klopp’s outstanding team that won the league at a canter. There are no doubts that Mane is among the best in the world right now.
In fact, the Senegalese was ranked No.4 behind Lionel Messi, Virgil Van Dijk and Cristiano Ronaldo in the 2019 Ballon d’Or rankings and his form has not waned even in 2020.
Fellow Senegalese Armand Traore is of the opinion that Mane has already achieved the ‘greatest of all time’ honour for his country. Traore, who is a product of the Arsenal academy, feels Mane has definitely surpassed Senegalese hero from the 2002 World Cup and former Liverpool striker El Hadji Diouf.
“I do believe that Sadio is the best Senegalese player ever, yes.” Traore told Goal. He felt that despite Diouf starring in Senegal‘s run to the quarter-finals of the 2002 World Cup, Mane’s work ethic, humility and the amount of silverware he has won tilts the scales in his favour.
“In terms of ability, Senegalese people would argue that El Hadji Diouf could be the best because he did make the whole nation dream in that 2002 World Cup which people remember to this day.
“But Sadio’s obvious talent, his work ethic and most importantly his humility puts him ahead. Coupled with the fact that he is winning a lot of trophies and putting Senegal back on the map, I do believe that he is quickly becoming the best Senegalese player ever. That’s if he is not already.”
Traore made his senior debut for Arsenal in 2006 in a League Cup fixture against West Brom. He featured heavily in the competition as Arsenal beat Liverpool 6-3 en route the final where they were beaten by Chelsea. Traore played as the left-back in those games.
He would go on to make several appearances for the club in the Premier League before going on loan to Portsmouth and Serie A giants Juventus. He would then move permanently away from the Emirates stadium in 2011 to join Queens Park Rangers.
“My time at Arsenal was great. I was coached by two legends of the game in Arsene Wenger and Steve Bould. I got to play in the Champions League and train with absolutely amazing players.
“I got to play for Portsmouth in the Premier League and was involved in a great European game against AC Milan at Fratton Park. Juventus was an amazing experience although it was slightly marred by off field family issues. Overall it was nothing but good memories.”
Traore left the Gunners in 2011 after featuring in a 8-2 humiliation against Manchester United. It was a period when a lot of star names departed the Emirates like Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri and Robin van Persie (2012). However, the Senegalese feels that the result against the Red Devils was not the reason he moved to QPR.
In fact, he says he would never have played in that game if Bacary Sagna had been fit.
“That transfer window was a bit strange indeed. A lot of senior players left and maybe there was a shift in ideas that summer. I’m not sure and it is not really for me to speak on that.
“A lot of people might think that I was sold because of the Man United game but in reality my move was already agreed and I was supposed to have my medical at QPR before that game. But Bacary Sagna was ill so the boss (Arsene Wenger) needed me in the squad for the game. So we pushed the medical back for the day after the game.”
Traore also had high praises for the current Gunners’ boss – Mikel Arteta – who joined Arsenal just before Traore left. The 30-year-old feels Arteta had impressed Wenger even during his time at Everton.
“I believe the fact that the boss signed him and he pretty much made an impact instantly proves to me that the boss rated him highly as a player.
“Arteta was a fantastic player who caused a lot of problems for many years for teams in the Premier League. Arsene Wenger would have taken notes on Arteta whenever Arsenal played Everton. So I believe he rated him, yes.”
Traore, who is looking forward to a new chapter in his career after ending his stint in Turkey, picks that fateful match against Manchester City on the final matchday of the 2011-12 Premier League season as one of his favourite moments from his career.
Traore was involved as QPR were beaten dramatically by two injury time goals from Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero that saw Manchester City win their first ever Premier League title. Though Traore ended up on the losing side, the fact that QPR were not relegated helped him savour a historic occasion.
“It (my career) has been overall pretty enjoyable. I have been involved in two promotions with QPR and Cardiff and the play-off final at Wembley was particularly enjoyable.
“Playing in the Premier League and being involved on the day that Man City won their first title in many years was a good moment because we stayed up and Man City won the league. So it was smiles all around. You do have ups and downs but that is part of being a football player.”