With the alleged physical attack on teammate Leroy Sané, Sadio Mané has hit rock bottom ten months after his celebrated commitment to FC Bayern Munich. how could it get so far? The story of a dream debut, subservience, being offside, changing positions, an injury and the harbingers of scandal.
From today’s perspective, the words that the CEO of FC Bayern Munich, Oliver Kahn, spoke at Sadio Mané’s press conference ten months ago were almost prophetic. “I’ve already said we need fresh blood,” Kahn announced at the time and justified the signing of the superstar from Liverpool with the fact that they wanted to “set new points of interest within the squad”.
Well, FC Bayern actually got fresh blood and new stimulus points with the Mané commitment – but differently than expected. After the 3-0 defeat by Manchester City in the first leg of the quarter-finals of the Champions League, Mané is said to have bloodied his teammate Leroy Sané in the course of a dispute over a missed goal opportunity. It was the preliminary low point of a previously great misunderstanding.
Last summer, Mané’s commitment appeared to be possibly the biggest coup in the club’s history. Sports director Hasan Salihamidzic rightly praised him as a “world star”. For the first time in its glorious history, FC Bayern signed a regular player from a top European club in the prime of his creative power. Mané, who rose to become the top earner with a rumored gross annual salary of 22 million euros, cost 32 million euros.
Shortly thereafter, Mané also climbed onto the fence of the Frankfurt Waldstadion: Before the away block, he celebrated a perfect debut at FC Bayern with a megaphone in his hand. As in the Supercup triumph against RB Leipzig, Mané also scored and won in the Bundesliga opener against Eintracht Frankfurt. He followed up with a brace against VfL Bochum. FC Bayern and Mané seemed “in love with shock”, at least that’s how Thomas Tuchel would put it. After the first kisses, however, it quickly became complicated and never as wonderful as it was back then.
Sadio Mané: An injury prevented participation in the World Cup
In the games that followed, Mané lost a lot, also due to a system change by coach Julian Nagelsmann. While Mané was able to alternate with a second striker at the front in the 4-2-2-2 system he initially practiced, he mostly seemed lost as a solo striker in the new 4-2-3-1.
Soon one wondered what role the bosses and trainer Nagelsmann had actually intended for Mané. Should he actually replace the emigrated goalscorer Robert Lewandowski? If that was the plan, it was quickly considered a failure. After the recovery of the initially injured striker Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, Mané mainly played in his traditional position as a left winger in the autumn.
There he regularly collected scorer points and mostly showed solid to good performances, but he was far from the gala form he was used to from Liverpool. The unstoppable train to the goal, the lively dribbles, the opening sprints – he missed all of that as far as possible. Instead, Mané liked to stand around on the sidelines. On average, even more often than any other player in Europe’s top leagues, as resourceful statisticians calculated.
And then at the beginning of November he injured his so-called fibula head in the penultimate first round game. It was a tragedy for Mané personally, who missed out on the World Cup with the Senegalese national team. After more than three months out through injury, he only made his comeback at the end of February, but has since been looking at his form, his position on the pitch and in the team in general.
Sadio Mané has been in a slump since his recovery
Most recently, Mané commuted between the bench and the starting eleven, he only managed one assist in nine appearances this year. In Nagelsmann’s new three-chain system, he was again mainly used as a center forward, either alone or with a neighbor – although the coach frankly admitted that Mane “feels a bit more comfortable on the left wing, not so centrally”. In Nagelsmann’s last game against Bayer Leverkusen, the coach substituted him at half-time after just eight ball contacts.
Successor Tuchel placed himself directly in front of his “sensitive” protégé: “There is no doubt about his quality. It’s about trust and patience so that he can get back into the flow.” Meanwhile, Kahn suspected, somewhat surprisingly, that Mané had difficulties with the “quality” of the competition in Munich: “He doesn’t know that. He wasn’t used to that at Liverpool either.”
In the previous four competitive games under Tuchel, Mané was only once in the starting XI, also as a solo striker. When he was eliminated from the DFB Cup against SC Freiburg, he came off the bench and was responsible for the free kick that ultimately led to the game-winning penalty. Mané was then asked when he would finally find his form. “Soon, I promise you,” he replied.
Sadio Mané initially appeared “a bit too submissive”.
Possibly even more worrying than his athletic form crisis is his development away from the spotlight. Committed as a world star, Mané was actually given a leadership role internally. Last summer he was even considered a candidate for the team council, but Leon Goretzka ultimately succeeded Lewandowski on this board.
Despite his undisputed qualities and his title-rich career, despite his 30 years at the time, Mané was initially surprisingly reserved at FC Bayern. “He can have more confidence in his leadership skills. He’s welcome to appear even more self-confident and positively arrogant,” said Nagelsmann in the fall and certified Mané to be “a tad too submissive”.
In the past few weeks, this subservience has disappeared – but not as hoped. Recently there have been increasing reports that Mané is acting as a loner and is not really integrated into the team. There is also astonishment about his training performance and his fitness level.
Sadio Mané: Disputes with Nagelsmann and Sané
The sports picture reported that there had been a heated argument between Mané and Nagelsmann after the round of 16 second leg in the Champions League against Paris Saint-Germain (2-0). Accordingly, Mané complained about too little playing time and his supposedly late substitution. A real escalation was just prevented.
But that followed after the subsequent Champions League game against Manchester City on Tuesday, when Mané came on late again. This time, his anger was not vented on the coach, but on teammate Leroy Sané. It is still unclear what the consequences are for him – in the worst case, maybe even a sacking despite the current contract until 2025?
In any case, it would not be the first time that Mané left a club in strife. In the summer of 2014, he stayed away from training ahead of the all-important Champions League qualifier for his then-club RB Salzburg against Malmö FF, presumably to force a change. Coach Adi Hütter suspended Mané, Salzburg failed – and Mané ultimately switched to Southampton.
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