Sadio Mane will be regarded as a Liverpool legend as he departs for Bayern Munich
In some ways it is fitting that Sadio Mané moves to Munich.
For a number of Liverpool players, one of their best memories came from the Senegal superstar in Bavaria – long before his mesmerizing display at the Allianz Arena in a Champions League win of the last 16 in March 2019.
In the summer of 2017, just after Mohamed Salah became Liverpool’s record signing, Jürgen Klopp’s side had been invited by Munich to participate in the Audi Cup, a traditional warm-up tournament, alongside Napoli and Atletico Madrid.
Sadio Mane’s explosive pace and finishing abilities were on display in Liverpool as they defeated Bayern Munich 3-0 in the pre-season Audi Cup in 2017
Mane was pressured to deliver immediately after Liverpool paid £31million in 2016
There was much intrigue among the group about how Salah would adapt and he looked very sharp on the fields at their base in Lake Tegernsee.
However, the day Mane returned to full training is vibrant after missing the end of last season with a knee injury.
He was fast, dynamic and deadly. His running was aggressive, his desire to score goals indisputable.
There were telltale looks at the end of this particular session and the next day he showed what was to come as he scored the opener against Bayern and then assisted the second in a 3-0 win.
It is always the most reliable guide, the appraisal from the dressing room. Players can’t fool each other given the amount of time they spend together, and that means when they’re willing to talk so effusively about a coworker, you know it’s coming from a real place.
Mane formed a formidable partnership with Mohamed Salah despite initial skepticism
Mane helped Liverpool boost the Champions League in 2019 when they beat Tottenham 2-0
And when you spoke to a Liverpool player about Mane, there was undisguised admiration.
He was the man for the big occasion, someone they knew who would fight and wreck from the front to make things happen.
Mane’s performance was also pivotal as Liverpool ended their 30-year wait to win the competition in 2019-20
Perhaps it’s easy to forget the pressure that was on Mane when he first arrived at Liverpool six years ago.
The club’s recent history of major signings has been checkered at best and the £31million they gave Southampton was initially met with skepticism.
Liverpool didn’t have the room to continue making mistakes in the transfer window and who knows what would have turned out for them if Mane had been impressed and they hadn’t qualified for the Champions League in Klopp’s first full season.
That’s why he was the most important undertaking ever under Klopp.
You can talk about Salah, Virgil van Dijk and Fabinho, Alisson Becker and the cunning to secure Andrew Robertson, but Mane was the one who just had to work. How it worked.
There were 120 goals in those six campaigns in 269 games in all competitions, with a further 38 assists. The aggregate puts him ahead of figures such as the late Ian St John, John Barnes and Kevin Keegan in Liverpool’s all-time list. That’s why the ‘legend’ tag rests comfortably on his shoulders.
“His achievements are always incredible,” Jordan Henderson said towards the end of the last campaign.
“The amount of work he does for the team off the ball too, defending there at the end, winning the ball back high.
Mane was in rampant form as Liverpool crushed Manchester City in the FA Cup semi-final
Liverpool set to win the FA Cup after winning the Carabao Cup earlier this year
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp will certainly miss Mane, but his team continues to evolve
“Then his quality in and around the penalty area, you see how he can finish with headers – it’s all that gym [he does], the neck muscles to generate the force. He’s just a top player and a great boy.’
Some men may leave clubs where they’ve done well, but Mane’s move to Bayern was met with a wave of sadness, nostalgia and appreciation from Liverpool fans, who are spoiled for choice when it comes to picking his best moments .
The way he trampled Manchester City in the FA Cup semi-final is still fresh in most people’s minds, but there are so many others battling it out, such as a header at Villa Park in November 2019 that set Liverpool on course for the win. Premier League and a last minute winner against Everton in December 2016.
Mané scores against his new club Bayern Munich in the 2018-19 Champions League last 16
Mane won the Premier League Golden Boot in 2018-19 after scoring 22 goals
He has won six major trophies, collected the Golden Boot and also has a piece of Premier League history that will probably never be beaten: the fastest hat-trick, scored for Southampton against Villa in two minutes 56 seconds in May 2015.
Munich may have paid more than they wanted, but one thing they can’t argue with is the quality they get. A new era is dawning for Liverpool, with Darwin Nunez and Luis Diaz dethroning Salah, but it will take some time to forget the past.
Mane, you see, was the kind of man who had the ability to do something memorable on a regular basis. That sparkling day in the Tegernsee is a good example of this.