The Bayern Munich forward received the award last Thursday after it was not awarded for two consecutive years due to the corona pandemic. The Confederation of African Football therefore wanted to give the award to someone who has not only performed well in the past year, but since 2019. “I thank the Senegalese people,” Mané said when receiving the trophy in Rabat, Morocco, “and dedicate this trophy for the youth of my country”.
20 years ago, 30-year-old Mané himself belonged to that youth. He grew up in the remote fishing village of Bambaly, located about 60 kilometers east of the Senegalese city of Ziguinchor. There, in the wooded area on the banks of the Casamance River, Sadio Mané plays football for the first time with other boys from his village. “I was hungry and had to work on the pitch,” Mané told Ghanaian website Nsemwoha in 2019. ‘I went through difficult times, I played football barefoot.’
At a young age, Mané was noticed for his football talent, recalls Ismaila Biaye, principal of Mané’s former high school. However, he is still a shy boy. “You could have missed him in the village,” Biaye told a reporter from the Chinese television channel CTGN in 2018. “If I hadn’t taught him, I wouldn’t have noticed him. He’s such a quiet boy who walks past you without noticing.’
Secretly playing football
Yet Mané’s father, the local imam, is initially indifferent to his son’s passion. Mané therefore first plays secretly in a neighboring village, before finally leaving for the Senegalese capital Dakar in the hope of being discovered. When that fails and Mané returns to his parents, he makes a pact with his mother: as long as he remains a devout Muslim and continues his studies, he can continue playing football.
The second time Mané leaves the parental home, it is with the parents’ consent. At a soccer tournament in M’Bour, a scout sees the then 15-year-old Mané play and insists that the boy take some soccer trials in Dakar. After fifteen minutes, Jules Boucher, recruiter at the Senegalese club Génération Foot, has seen enough. “I said to my colleague: if this boy gets good training, he will be a great player,” Boucher recalled in an interview with French television channel France24.
His time at Génération Foot is proving to be very important for Sadio Mané. Through the club’s network, he will play for French Metz in 2011. From the start, Mané makes an indelible impression there. But Metz have been relegated and forced to sell players. Mane is bought by Red Bull Salzburg, where he becomes top scorer in the 2013-2014 season. Then the Senegalese makes a switch to the English Premier League, where he plays for Southampton.
He has scored 21 goals in 67 games for the southern English club, something that has attracted the attention of Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp. In 2016, he signed Mane for €36 million, which will ultimately lead to a Champions League win in 2019 and the coveted Premier League title the following year. Mané remains modest amid his success – Eurosport calling him a ‘silent, smiling assassin’ who ‘speaks so softly it’s hard to hear him’. Mané is also crucial for the national team: in February 2022, Senegal will beat Egypt in the Africa Cup of Nations after Mané scored the decisive penalty.
The Senegalese may now be among the best in the world, but his compatriots mainly see his charity. “Why would I want ten Ferraris, twenty diamond watches or two airplanes?” Mané wondered in the aforementioned interview with Nsemwoha. ‘What will these things do for me or the world? I don’t need to show luxury cars, luxury houses, travel or airplanes. I prefer that my people get a little of what life has given me.’
Mané is back in Bambaly at the end of June. Film of ‘Mané in de modder’ is circulating on the internet: the images show how the top player plays a match on a muddy pitch. Earlier, Mané asked in an interview with the British Daily Telegraph whether they will not publish his statements about the school he built in his native town because he ‘doesn’t do it for the sake of the public’. Now British tabloids are more than happy to publish about the ‘hero’ and his ‘staggering generosity’. According to The mirror In addition to the school, Mané has also financed a stadium, a hospital, a post office and a gas station worth more than 880 thousand euros.
Mané now plays for Bayern Munich, who have paid 32 million euros for the Senegalese, with bonuses of up to 40 million euros. Several players are confused by the switch. Liverpool reportedly asked Mane to stay. Coach Jürgen Klopp describes Mane as one of the best players Liverpool have ever known upon his departure. “He is leaving at a time when he is one of the best players in world football,” Knopp said. “We should not dwell on what we are losing now, but celebrate what we had. The goals he scored, the trophies he won; Mane is a legend but also a modern Liverpool icon.”
3x Sadio Mane
– Dutch people who are not yet familiar with Mané’s game can get acquainted with the opening match of the upcoming World Cup in Qatar: the duel between the Netherlands and Senegal is then the opening match of the tournament. The match will be played at Al Thumama Stadium on November 21.
During his time at Southampton, Mané made history: on 16 May 2015, in a match against Aston Villa, he scored three goals in 2 minutes and 56 seconds. Mané thus scored the fastest hat-trick in the Premier League ever.
– With his departure to Bayern Munich, Sadio Mane is currently the highest paid African player. According to the British The mirror he gets almost 294 thousand euros a week credited to his account. With a weekly salary of more than 258 thousand euros, Mo Salah is in second place among African high earners in football.