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The Shades of Mane

The Soaring Mane of the Teranga Lions

At 24, Sadio Mane has grown from humble beginnings to a mysterious force  in football. But becoming the most expensive African player in history after Liverpool bought him for £34 million from Southampton in 2016, has not deterred Mane from his football ambitions while maintaining a calm and humble persona.

The Senegalese’s deep rooted passion and devotion to football is still his driving force, and it has set him a mark apart.

While some high profile football prospects take a while to dive into the competitive thrill of English football, Mane was up for the challenge taking the English Premier League (EPL) by storm.

Shortly after being signed by Southampton in 2014, his contribution was an instant impact and would later lead to a new EPL record for the fastest hat-trick after scoring three goals in 2 minutes 56 seconds in a 6-1 win over Aston Villa.

A Mane of Strong Conviction

For Mane, the fire of his character was always his distinctive quality before even making any football relevance especially for a boy who hailed from a part of Senegal, elusive to football opportunities let alone chance of finding any meaning in sports.

“I didn’t believe him,” his uncle told a Senegalese reporter during a visit to Bambali, Mane’s small village and home where his father was the imam at the local mosque. “But he believed. Even in the local winter tournaments, he would repeat it to me.”

His determination and eagerness to beat all odds led to his current status but also an appreciation for a past he has not forgotten or written off.

The young Senegalese starlet is still devout to the values he was raised with and is also generous in seeing that back at home, more like him can afford easier opportunities to play football.

“Religion is very important to me. I respect the rules of Islam, and I pray five times a day, always,” Mane tells the The Mail.

“Senegal is 90 per cent Muslim, and maybe 10 percent Christian and everybody lives side by side in harmony as friends.

“My best friend, Luke, was a Christian and we used to go to each other’s houses. There was no conflict between religion and the fact that I wanted to play football.

“I was brought up correctly and in the right way and my parents are very proud of the fact that I am a professional footballer.

“They still live in the same village but I have a house in Dakar, so if they want they go and stay there, it is available for them.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”One of the things that has pushed me on in life ever since I was young is that I want to give something back specifically to my region.[/perfectpullquote]

“I am in discussions with colleagues in Senegal. I am young now but it is something that will be happening very shortly.”

A Mane and a Dream

Mane’s football opportunity was one he grabbed by the throat. Knowing his disadvantage and the need to prove beyond expectation, he did not give up on his dream forcing his way into featuring for his village team and standing up to bigger local rivals.

Here comes a boy, hungry, fascinated, driven and all the things that give purpose and all reason to dream, without the care in the world, only thinking of that one day when he will play professionally.

“My village is a long way from Dakar, and I didn’t really think anybody would be coming out there scouting,” Mane said.

“So I took it upon myself to say to my parents that I loved football so much I wanted to be able to advance so we went to the town to train with different teams and that is when I was spotted.”

The rugged and torn up looking kid got his first big break even while his appearance was ridiculed and laughed at.

But his talent was what mattered and a scout from Generation Foot, a renowned football academy with solid ties to Mertz in France Ligue 1, proposed an offer to play football professionally.

Just like his quick lightening pace and awareness on goal, Mane’s career blossomed all quite naturally to become one of the top strikers today.

A move to Europe quickly culminated to a big money transfer to Red Bull Salzburg where his performance sparked several interests from clubs all over Europe and eventually a move to England.

A Mane With a Pure Heart

But legacy over a rich payday was always the priority plan, and it is no wonder he chose to make his career bed with Liverpool over other top-tier teams when he hit the radar.

“With the football, everybody knows Anfield – it’s unbelievable. I always want to be at Anfield, all the time. I wish we could play every two or three days at Anfield because it’s always exciting to play in front of these fans,” Mane said in an interview with

“I think for a football player if you want to perform and do well you can’t think about your price or what other people say,” he added.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]“Other people will talk when you do well, and they will talk when you do bad, so I think it’s not important to think about what is being said about you.[/perfectpullquote]

“If you want to perform, I think you need to be focused in your head and believe in your qualities and work hard. Then after that, give your best for the team. Don’t listen or think about [what other people say].

“When I came to Europe, I had a mission. My mission was to play in one of the big clubs in Europe, that’s why I was giving everything.

“And finally, I think I am in one of the big clubs, so I’m happy to be here.

“The next thing now is to play in the Champions League with Liverpool and win trophies with Senegal. And why not win many, many trophies with my club, as well?”

The Mane With a Plan

Incidentally, Mane and Jurgen Klopp should have partnered up in 2014 while the latter was coaching Borussia Dortmund but fate it seems would have it otherwise after the deal fell through last minute pushing Mane to join Southampton instead.

“It was the same when he left Salzburg … we wanted to make the right step in the right club at that moment,” Mane’s agent Bjorn Bezemer said.

“I knew Jurgen Klopp from Germany and thought that he could be the right coach to take him forward after Southampton. You never know what will happen so that it can be a bit of guesswork.”

Call it good timing or coincidental, but Klopp the normal one has proved a perfect managerial fit for a simple man with the potential to become a Liverpool legend.

“We tried to find out about Liverpool before he committed himself to them and it is not only the coach, the whole club is top professional. I think it worked out pretty well,” Bezemer added

As the tide rose with big things in waiting, it always easy for Mane to pick money over a memorable career but unfathomed by fame, has made him popular in Liverpool because of his friendly, humble and low-profile personality.

The Career Mane

Before joining Southampton, Mane plummeted with big spending offers from China and Russia as well as big clubs in Europe.

“We said, ‘No, now is not the time to make just big money or sitting on a bench in a top club, we want to take a career step,’ so he accepted the offer for less money from Southampton because we felt this was the right move at that stage,” he added.

“I had a few conversations with the manager and director of football there, and they gave us a good feeling. Sadio trusted in the right people, and in the end, it paid off.

“Our plan for Sadio has always been to make him Africa’s best player. The most important thing was to manage him to take the right decision.

“It’s easy to make a fast deal, but we prefer to have a long-term relationship with all of our players.”

Now Mane carries the mantle of Senegal’s football success in Africa and internationally and this; he does not take lightly.

Senegal was sure favorite at the just concluded 2017 AFCON Games in Gabon but a defeat to Cameroon in a penalty shoot-out, left most of the continent in shock especially when it was Mane who missed the decisive kick.

It was heartbreaking and deeply disappointing, and an emotionally overwhelmed Mane was right in the center of it.

“We went straight away to his house in Liverpool so when he returned we were there already,” his agent Bezemer told The Guardian.

“The club organized a jet to make sure he was back in time for training, so we tried to liaise with them and make sure that everything was ready for him.

“Sadio was still quite upset when he got back because he feels a responsibility for his country but we tried to explain that these things happen in football and you can recover from them quickly.

The Mane on a Mission

A new chapter now dawns on Mane and Senegal as they qualify for the 2018 Russia World Cup and the Teranga Lion who left his pride to become his own, is on a mission to revive his nation’s legacy just as he started his when he left without a word to his family except his uncle, on his departure to Europe.

“I only told my uncle. Even my mom, she didn’t know,” Mane said. “I remember the first day I got there, to France. I was supposed to train, but the coach said ‘stay at home, ’ and I didn’t have any credit on my phone card to call my mom.

“The next day I went with some of my friends who were already at Metz to buy some cards. I called her and said: ‘I’m in France.’

“‘Which France?’ She said. She couldn’t believe it! I said: ‘France in Europe.’

“‘What do you mean Europe? You live in Senegal.’ I said: ‘No I’m in Europe.’

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]“She was amazed; it was crazy! She was so surprised, and she’d call me every day to ask if it was true. She didn’t believe me. My dream had come true.[/perfectpullquote]


Photo Credit: Getty Images

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