How Bayern Munich’s need for speed and Mane signing can fuel Champions League bid
Sadio Mane’s six-year spell at Liverpool has come to an end after he officially joined Bayern Munich. A selfless and classy performer, he probably wouldn’t have said no to all the way there, and Liverpool have lost one of their best players.
The attacker was officially unveiled at the Allianz Arena on Wednesday following his £35.1 million transfer. Those at Anfield were reluctant to let him go, but they were fighting a losing battle once his intention to leave became clear.
The back of last season was marred by Mane’s musings about his future. Jurgen Klopp’s preparations for the Champions League final were occasionally interrupted by questions, and his teammates would have known he was looking elsewhere.
Bayern Munich have signed Sadio Mane of Liverpool and he has signed a three-year deal
Jurgen Klopp and others at Anfield didn’t want the attacker to leave, but a sale went through
He will be sorely missed. After all, he scored 120 goals during his six-year spell and helped his side win six trophies, including the Champions League and Premier League. His new employers get an experienced head and quality personified.
Mane is their third transfer window signing and is their most important. While Julian Nagelsmann has plenty to solve during the off-season, the addition of the troublesome winger, who could also play in the number 9 role, will help alleviate some of his problems.
Jordan Henderson praised him towards the end of the last campaign and pointed to Mane’s willingness to break a lung for the greater good.
“His achievements are always incredible,” he said.
Mané is widely acclaimed by his teammates and coaches and is a great signing from Bayern
He also has experience of winning the trophy his new club most longs for, the Champions League
“The amount of work he does for the team, even off the ball, defending there at the end, winning the ball back high.”
His energy and relentless pressing will fit seamlessly with Nagelsmann’s playing style. Last year only parts of his system were clear and the young coach will be determined to get his team fit again and push for the biggest trophies.
The manager’s attempts to do just that will be made easier by the star-studded list of wizards at his disposal. Players like Leroy Sane, Serge Gnabry and Kingsley Coman occupy positions wide, while Alphonso Davies also flies forward on the left.
Of course, football is not just about who has the fastest team. Instead, games are defined by cohesion and individuals making the right decisions at the right time. Nagelsmann is a quick learner and will know that Mane will play where he is needed.
Julian Nagelsmann came under scrutiny last season and hopes to kick next season
We are talking about a player who has won the Golden Boot in the Premier League and who also has a special piece of the highest level, the fastest hat-trick, which he scored for Southampton against Aston Villa in just two minutes and 56 seconds in 2015.
Bayern paid more than they wanted, but every penny represents pure value – and if he helps them make it to the Champions League there will be no complaints.
Nagelsmann may have been dipped in beer within minutes of taking their Bundesliga title this season, their tenth in a row, but the 34-year-old openly admitted the campaign had been unsuccessful just weeks before the celebrations.
His team were knocked out by Villarreal in the quarter-finals of the competition their supporters wanted most, losing 2-1 in total. They were stunned by the underdogs and the result was a real blow to their coach.
Serge Gnabry (L) and Leroy Sane (R) are two of an enviable group of wing wizards at the club
“We are out of the German Cup, out of the Champions League,” he said.
“I don’t think this is good enough for Bayern. We had the semi-final as a minimum goal and we didn’t achieve that. It counts as one of my top three defeats.”
Bayern were accused of a lack of big game nous, while they were certainly sloppy at the back and blunt in attack. Disturbingly, Nagelsmann’s sides have not suffered from a lack of creativity in the past, leading to suggestions that he was out of his depth.
There was also an over-reliance on Robert Lewandowski, and that will have to change with the veteran striker determined to secure a departure from Bavaria this summer.
Bayern were stunned by Villarreal in last season’s Champions League quarter-finals
Their situation has been aggravated by Robert Lewandowski expressing his wish to leave
But this is where Mane’s signature comes in very handy indeed.
Nagelsmann has been deeply influenced by the philosophy of Ralf Rangnick, who, apart from his disastrous spell at Manchester United, has instructed his players to put pressure on them. The duo is closely related and continues to mirror each other’s work.
“Thirty percent of coaching is tactics, 70 percent is social competence,” Nagelsmann once said when questioned about his style. Mane fits perfectly into both categories.
Since taking the reins in Munich, he has favored a 4-2-3-1 formation, fronted by Lewandowski. Outwardly, he tends to select his wingers on the same flank as their stronger foot, with Thomas Muller as number 10.
Mane is versatile meaning he could feasibly play as a false nine or on either flank
There are also many rotations, allowing the full backs to bomb to join the attack.
Again, Mane would be able to fit into his structure perfectly, while also giving him time to rest due to the strength and depth Nagelsmann has on the bench.
Last season, Bayern was propelled, and perhaps plagued by, the feeling that anything was possible for them in their new era. There were sweeping changes at the top of the club as new players were integrated into the team.
It’s worth looking back at the time they rode through their Champions League group with six wins and a goal difference of +19 to remember how good they were at times. However, the same league is also where their campaign unravels.
Nagelsmann has depth in reserve and Mane would fit seamlessly into his system
Kingsley Coman is another star who could compete for the £35m new arrival
Nagelsmann was dogged by the failure on the biggest stage of them all, also hinting that there were other factors lurking behind his surprisingly gloomy mood.
“My excitement has dampened a bit over the past two weeks,” he said. ‘It’s not just about the results, it’s also about things around them.’
He could have pointed to the uncertainty about Lewandowski’s future.
That’s because Barcelona are reportedly preparing a £43million bid for the talisman ace, who have made no secret of his desire to continue in this window.
Lewandowski, pictured playing for Poland this month, will leave a big void at Bayern
Members of the Nou Camp club voted to ease the strain on their finances by selling some of their merchandising and television revenues last week, freeing up money they can use to reach their No. 1 goal.
He will leave a gaping void in Bavaria after scoring 50 goals in 46 games last season. But in a crisis comes opportunity, and the door is open for Mane to join in, settle in and immediately make himself a fan favorite for seasons to come.
His flexibility is a big bonus for his manager. Mane can play as a false 9 if Lewandowski walks away, and is also equally adept on either side of a 4-3-3 – a concept Nagelsmann has been playing with for quite some time, that’s for sure.
With enough quality in reserve and devilish creativity on the field, the puzzle is gradually starting to fall into place. They will also have to rely on other elements, maybe even luck, if they want to win the Champions League, but they could be closer.
But Mane’s signing will help them carry on and push for the biggest trophies
Surprisingly, they have not been associated with many other targets. There is interest in Stuttgart topper Sasa Kalajdzic, but the talks have been put on the back burner. He could provide a much-needed physical presence while those around him wreak havoc.
This is the kind of setup Mane would thrive in, one that is constantly changing and allows his attackers to do what they do best. Combine that with his understanding of his defensive responsibilities, and he’s an archetypal Nagelsmann player.
Perhaps most importantly, he has already won the Champions League once before. At Bayern, he will lead their bid for his second next season and one thing is certain, he will play with his usual grin and leave everything he can on the pitch.