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Diouf vs Mane: Weighing up the Senegal legends’ international legacies

12:40 GMT 08/06/2021
Mane Diouf
The Liverpool attacker surpassed the ex-Teranga Lion recently in the national team’s scoring charts, prompting Goal to compare their accomplishments

When you take aside Sadio Mane’s deserved criticism of the appalling conditions the Senegal side had to endure in their 3-1 win over Zambia on Saturday, the fact the Liverpool icon overtook El Hadji Diouf's 21 national team goals seemed to go largely under the radar.

Mane’s 22nd strike for the Teranga Lions took him to fifth in their all-time charts and within 10 of surpassing Henri Camara’s 31 goals. Given he’s now 29, the Liverpool forward faces a race against time to become his nation’s top scorer, but it’s an accomplishment he’ll certainly have in his sights.

Having said that, the country’s best player surpassing the great Diouf is no mean feat.

Despite his antics and tendency to court controversy, the former Senegal star was one of the continent’s best players in his prime and had the world at his feet at times. He was undoubtedly the team’s brightest talent in their World Cup sojourn in 2002, where they reached the quarter-final in Asia.

Progression to the last eight saw that group match Cameroon’s heroics 12 years earlier, and their cruel Golden Goal elimination by Turkey rankles to this day.

Diouf may not have scored in the competition, but the nature of his performances on the world stage saw him named in the All-Star Team of the Tournament.

Being deemed worthy of inclusion in an XI that included Miroslav Klose and Ronaldo, two great World Cup frontmen, and legendary Brazilian pair Rivaldo and Ronaldinho only emphasises the West African’s brilliance at the showpiece.

There’s added extolment of Diouf’s performance when you consider that Jay-Jay Okocha’s genius four years earlier could only get him a place on the six-man reserve list in France.

He was a two-time African Footballer of the Year, the first Senegalese to claim the award and the only one for almost two decades until Mane’s 2019 success.

Throw in the Teranga Lions’ 2002 Africa Cup of Nations showing, where they were defeated finalists, and the 40-year-old’s gains extra points in the head-to-head with the current Liverpool man.

Admittedly, while Diouf’s group didn’t claim continental success and the forward’s penalty miss in the final vs Cameroon ultimately proved costly, it doesn’t diminish how that bunch became the first Senegal side to go that close to ruling the continent.

Of course, Mane and his teammates matched the feat of the class of 2002 when they were beaten by Algeria two years ago in Egypt but their underperformance in the 2018 World Cup was beyond disappointing.

The Lions’ inability to make it out of a group containing Colombia, Japan and Poland in Russia was unsatisfactory especially after beating the European outfit in their opening group game.

Failure to twice hold on to their advantage against the Asian nation further exacerbated their missed opportunity — and the continent’s teams in general — in a showpiece that could’ve seen one of the African nations make a mark with many of the leading nations seemingly sub-par.

Regardless of the apparent inadequacies of this current Senegal side in hitting expected heights shouldn’t diminish Mane’s success and rise into one of the brilliant players on the continent.

He and Diouf share a similar career path which landed them both on Merseyside, but the former’s lengthier prime, greater individual success at Liverpool and superior likeability may swing this debate in his favour.

Mane has, after all, been included in the Caf Team of the Year five times and was fourth in the 2019 Ballon d’Or, to the ire of many observers who reckoned he’d played well enough to be in the top three.

Be that as it may, the icon’s feats in the early 2000s came at a time when Senegal were largely underdogs and weren’t expected to pull up trees at Afcon or the World Cup.

The retired star thrived in the two competitions and was deservedly recognised as a top performer in both.

Scoring so many goals at a time when the sport wasn’t particularly stats driven is an additional feather in Diouf’s cap and further cement the sentiment that the forward was truly amazing in his productive years.

Mane’s individual feats have surpassed the icon’s and he may well record even more success than the former Senegal star. Still, there’s no discounting that Diouf was one of the best of his generation and many will still argue that the current Liverpool star hasn’t dominated an international competition as highly as the 2002 star did in his halcyon days.