Lionel Messi has admitted to voting for Liverpool forward Sadio Mane in The Best poll and feels the Senegalese was unfortunate to finish fourth behind himself, Virgil van Dijk and Cristiano Ronaldo in the Ballon d’Or vote.
An Argentine superstar on the books at Barcelona has been recognised as the finest player on the planet for 2019.
Messi has added a sixth Golden Ball to his remarkable collection , with Van Dijk edged out for the second time this year.
The Liverpool defender also missed out on the FIFA Best prize , with Messi claiming that honour for the first time in his career.
The exploits of those at Anfield across the last 12 months have helped to put their leading lights in contention for the most prestigious personal accolades.
Mane slips seamlessly into that talent bracket, with the in-form winger having claimed a share of the Premier League Golden Boot in 2018-19.
He also helped the Reds to Champions League glory, while they are now back in the hunt for an elusive Premier League title.
Messi is among those to have paid homage to the efforts of Mane and Co, with the South American icon claiming that only remarkable standards being set around the globe prevented star turns at Anfield from receiving even greater recognition.
Quizzed by Canal+ Sport Africa on his Best vote for Mane and the final standings in the Ballon d’Or, Messi said: “It’s a shame to see Mane finish in fourth place.
“But I think there have been a lot of great players this year. That’s why it was difficult to choose a particular player. But I chose Sadio Mane (for The Best award) because he’s a player that I like.
“Mane achieved a great year that was exceptional for the entire Liverpool team. That’s why I chose him.
“I repeat, there were a lot of very great players this year, so the choice was difficult.”
Mane has been starring again for Liverpool in 2019-20, with another effort in a 5-2 Merseyside derby win over Everton taking him onto 13 goals for the season.
He has already stated a desire to keep himself in contention for future Golden Balls , saying on the back of Messi’s triumph: “I congratulate the winner and give him an appointment next year. I’ll try to be there and maybe lift the Ballon d’Or.”