Sadio Mane has arrived back at Liverpool early after missing his own party in Senegal to celebrate winning the African Player of the Year award due to travel disruption.
Mane beat Liverpool team-mate Mohamed Salah and Manchester City’s Riyad Mahrez to the award at a ceremony in Egypt on Tuesday and had hoped to fly directly to Senegal for a celebration.
But the festivities were called off on Wednesday after the plane Mane was due to travel on did not get the necessary permission to fly over Tunisia.
“It was my plan to first fly to Senegal to thank the people of my country and recognise them for everything they have given me on my journey, but unfortunately we were unable to make the visit,” said Mane, the first player to win the award from his country since El Hadji Diouf in 2002.
“Now we have a big match against Tottenham this weekend which I must focus on and be ready for, but it is true I am disappointed I was unable to return home to say thank you because of some problems beyond our control.
“So, I will return to Senegal as soon as possible because it is something very important to me – I will never forget what everybody did for me, everybody who believed in me and everybody who gave me the chance to play football.”
Praise for Mane flooded in across Senegal on Tuesday, while images of celebrations in his native village of Bambali, in the south of the country, circulated on social media.
Senegalese president Macky Sall tweeted Mane’s win was a “marvellous feat” that deserved being heralded as an example for young people.
Mane’s successful year has seen him win the Champions League and the Club World Cup with Liverpool, while Senegal finished runners-up to Algeria in the Africa Cup of Nations final.
The 27-year-old also finished the 2018-19 Premier League season as joint top scorer with 22 goals.
He came in fourth place in the Ballon d’Or last year, an award won for a record sixth time by Lionel Messi.