Jurgen Klopp took a big risk when he splashed out $46million to bring Sadio Mane to Anfield back in 2016. While the Senegal international had impressed during his time at Southampton, questions were raised over whether he was good enough to start for the Reds.
Mane quickly silenced his doubters, becoming a fan favourite on Merseyside due to his attacking flair and ruthless finishing. Now a Premier League and Champions League winner, the forward will go down in Anfield history alongside his partners in Liverpool’s world-class attacking trio, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah.
Planet Sport is here to remind you just how ridiculously good Mane has been since his arrival in English football.
Sadio Mane’s first Liverpool goal
Mane joined Liverpool in the summer of 2016 after an impressive spell at Southampton, becoming the most expensive African player in history at the time. Many players struggle to find their feet after a big money move, but this certainly wasn’t the case for the Senegal international.
Mane went on to get 13 goals and six assists in his first season on Merseyside, becoming a key part of Klopp’s plans.
Mane was on target in a thrilling 4-3 win at Arsenal on his debut, finding the top corner with a pinpoint strike after a superb run down the right wing. It was a special moment for the forward and a sign of things to come in the following years.
Golden Boot winner
On the final day of the 2018/19 campaign, Mane bagged a brace in a 2-0 win over Wolves which saw him reach 22 Premier League goals for the season.
The forward’s prolific form earned him the Golden Boot award, which he shared with Liverpool teammate Mo Salah and Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Clearly one winner wasn’t enough for the Reds.
Mane was also one of six players nominated for the Player’s Player of the Year award, and was named in the PFA Team of the Year along with teammates Virgil van Dijk, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson.
Winning the Champions League
In May 2018, Mane was on the scoresheet as Liverpool suffered a heartbreaking 3-1 defeat to Real Madrid in the Champions League final. Twelve months later, Klopp’s men made amends with a memorable 2-0 win over Tottenham in an all-English final.
It was the sixth time Liverpool have won the famous trophy – only Real Madrid (13) and AC Milan (7) have won it on more occasions. Klopp’s men went on to win the UEFA Super Cup after beating Europa League winners Chelsea on penalties, with Mane bagging a brace.
Mane won a penalty which Salah tucked away after just two minutes to get the Reds off to a flying start. He was a consistent performer throughout the competition, getting four goals and three assists including a double against Bayern Munich in the round of 16.
Ballon d’Or nomination
After a remarkable season for the Reds, Mane finished fourth in the vote for the prestigious 2019 Ballon d’Or award. Barcelona and Argentina legend Lionel Messi even voted for the Senegal international.
Messi told Canal Plus: “It’s a shame to see Mane finish in fourth place, but I think there have been a lot of great players this year. That’s why it was difficult to choose a particular player.
“But I chose Sadio Mane because he’s a player that I like. Mane achieved a great year that was exceptional for the entire Liverpool team.”
Such high praise from one of the greatest players of all time speaks volumes for how highly Mane is regarded in the footballing world.
African footballer of the year
After finishing as runner-up two years in a row, Mane was finally named African Footballer of the Year in 2020. He became only the second Senegalese player to win the award after former Liverpool and Leeds forward El-Hadji Diouf.
“I’m really happy and really proud at the same time,” said Mane at the award ceremony in Egypt. “I would like to thank my family, especially my uncle who is here today.
Mane’s journey is incredible and there is no doubt he will go down as one of the best African players in history.
“It is a big day for me and I would love to thank all the Senegalese people who have been voting for me. I’m from a small village called Bambali and I’m sure they are all watching me tonight.”
By Dan Barnes, follow him on Twitter