Bayern Munich have bolstered their front line with the signing of Senegalese striker Sadio Mane from Liverpool.
The Africa Cup of Nations winner has an outrageous affinity with goals, which is why bundesliga.com believes he will fit in perfectly in Munich, where that – and trophies – is the most traded currency.
Since arriving in the English Premier League from Salzburg in 2014, Sane delivered double-digit returns in every season. No other player in the league’s history can boast such a record. Anybody who knows the Premier League will be able to tell you how such consistently high returns are impossible, unless you are a superstar – and Mane ticks that box.
Under the guidance of former Borussia Dortmund coach Jürgen Klopp, the 30-year-old scored 22 goals in 36 games to finish as the league’s joint topscorer in 2018/19 – a season in which the Reds lifted the UEFA Champions League. He added 18 the following campaign as Liverpool ended a three-decade-long wait for a domestic league title, and scored 16 goals in the season just ended.
Put simply, Mane knows where the goal is.
Such consistency is something Bayern fans are familiar with, having witnessed the exploits of Robert Lewandowski. The Pole has gone into double figures in each of his last 11 seasons and only once – in 2014/15 – scored fewer than 20. His 41 goals in 2020/21, meanwhile, set a new Bundesliga single-season scoring record.
Raw talent alone does not guarantee such results, though, and even Lewandowski would not deny that much of his success in a Bayern shirt comes from the service he has been provided with. This is where Mane can expect to improve upon his own already outstanding statistics when he pulls on a Bayern shirt.
Watch: Lewandowski’s 35 goals in 2021/22
With his electrifying energy and ability to read the game, Mane is bound to find and burst into gaps in a similar way to how Thomas Müller has been terrorising Bundesliga defences for over a decade. Indeed, the pair share several similarities in the way they can pull out of position, draw their opponents out of their comfort zone and menace them with their quick-thinking and movement.
Mane is particularly productive coming in from the left wing, where he has operated from for Liverpool. With Leroy Sane and Serge Gnabry contending for a shirt with the new recruit, however, Julian Nagelsmann could find a more central role for him, in the Müller pocket or even up top as a decoy for Lewandowski. His movement and unpredictability may, once again, see him perform the same duties Müller has managed so masterfully. Yet the pair could also complement each other in a summit-narrowing ‘Christmas Tree’, just off Lewandowski’s shoulders and pushing up on either side of the Pole.
The additional tactical flexibility would make Bayern even harder to fathom, and it would be a marked step away from their tradition of destructive wing play. But while Bayern have refined such an approach to win ten titles in a row, innovation could now be needed to maintain their edge at the top. That is one of the main reasons Mane has been signed.
He has the qualities of Lewandowski, Müller, Sane, Gnabry, Kingsley Coman and Jamal Musiala all rolled into one. His goalscoring return as a centre forward is up there with Lewandowski: seven goals in 10 games there last season, and two assists. His space-invading cunning is mesmerisingly Müller-esque, while his dribbling skills are in the same league as Sane, Gnabry and Coman. The first touch, close control and ability to get out of sticky situations strikes a Musiala chord, and at the age of 30, he is at the peak of his powers.
While it is hard to put Mane into a specific position for Bayern next season, it is easy to define his role. He will be a goal scorer and supplier – wherever he roams – and that is why the record champions picked him as the cherry to go on top of their gourmet gateaux.
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