Sadio Mane (30) and Bouna Sarr (30) have more in common than their current employer FC Bayern Munich: They once gained their first professional experience together at FC Metz, and at the beginning of this year they won the Africa Cup of Nations with Senegal.
The last time Sadio Mane and Bouna Sarr played together for a club, it was at its all-time low. In the 2011/12 season, long-standing first division side FC Metz fell into the third division for the first time since professional football was introduced in France in 1932. Mane and Sarr gained their first professional experience in the north-eastern French city.
Mane came from his Senegalese home before the season, Sarr from the club’s youth. They joined a young team with great potential. In addition to the two current Bayern professionals, Kalidou Koulibaly (today SSC Napoli) and future Bundesliga players Gaetan Bussmann (Freiburg and Mainz) and Fallou Diagne (Freiburg and Werder) were also under contract with the second division club Metz.
Pierre Bouby played in midfield. At 27, he was one of the eldest of this team, which surprisingly relegated despite all the talent. “We may have seen each other better than we were then. We weren’t lucky and the attitude of some players was a concern for the coaching staff,” Bouby recalled in an interview with SPOX and GOALS. “So we got into a negative spiral from which we could no longer free ourselves.”
FC Metz: Sarr in the first half of the season, Mane in the second half
The first half of the season was actually promising: Metz was eighth in the winter break. Until then, Sarr had been used regularly as a substitute – on the offensive. It was not until his next stop at Olympique Marseille that he was retrained as a right-back.
Sarr then spent large parts of the second half of the season with the reserve team, while Mane went the opposite way. After a first half of the season riddled with injuries, he was only promoted to the pros in the winter, where he quickly earned a regular place. He was used 19 times, but was only able to celebrate one win. Metz slipped continuously in the table and ultimately ended up on a relegation zone.
“In any case, Sadio wasn’t the reason,” asserts Bouby. Mane set accents thanks to his good technique and speed, but often lacked any precision in his actions. “He had a lot of work to do with his degrees, was very wasteful,” Bouby recalls. “He could dribble through three opponents only to cross the ball into the stands or shoot wide.” His performance record: one goal, one assist.
What Mane also lacked, in addition to the necessary precision, was decent defensive behavior. “He defended very cautiously,” says Bouby. The counter-pressing fanatics Roger Schmidt at RB Salzburg and Jürgen Klopp at Liverpool changed this shortcoming to such an extent that, according to Bouby, Mane is now “one of the offensive players who help defend the most”.
Sadio Mane and Bouna Sarr at FC Metz
2011 to 2015
FC Metz and the Senegal connections
Mane’s journey to the top of the world began on the dusty pitches of his hometown of Banbali. From there he made it to Senegal’s capital Dakar and ultimately to the Generation Foot academy. The club, which was only founded in 2000 by former Ligue 1 legionnaire Mady Toure, maintains a cooperation with FC Metz. Thanks to the cooperation, a number of Senegalese have had professional careers in Europe, including Mane, Diafra Sakho, Papiss Demba Cisse and Ismaila Sarr.
Metz not only attracts Senegalese from Generation Foot, but also native French with Senegalese roots. Koulibaly (near Strasbourg) and Bouna Sarr (Lyon) were both born in France, made their breakthrough at Metz and, because of their roots, now play for the Senegalese national team. Despite the large number of Senegalese in Metz, there were no small groups at the time, as Bouby assures: “The team spirit was good.”
At Mane, his former teammate recalls a “humble boy with a lot of respect and personality”. Koulibaly in particular would have helped him a lot, but Mane also got along with Sarr right from the start. While the shy Mane was more reserved, Sarr was more open. “He was a good guy, spread a positive atmosphere,” says Bouby.