Sadio Mane is now one of the world’s best and most recognised attackers, but he was once an unknown at French minnows Metz.
As a teenager, Mane came over from Senegal and was actually relegated to the French 3rd division, before securing a move to Red Bull Salzburg. Form then he made his name and transferred to Southampton and eventually Liverpool, for whom he won the Champions League and came 4th in the Ballon d’Or voting last year.
According to Gaeten Bussman, who was at Metz with Mane, the flyer’s talent was obvious – so much so – at times the team tactic was ‘give the ball to Sadio’.
“Olivier Perrin had told us that a phenomenon was coming to Metz, but we had no idea he was that good,” Bussman told FourFourTwo.
“He was rather quiet, but I remember how happy Sadio always looked – it was like he never felt the pressure.
“It was his first French winter. He was so, so cold but we had a good laugh about it.
“He plays the same now as when he arrived in France. Physically he is more developed, of course, and he can play 90 minutes at full intensity.
“The biggest difference, though, is how explosive he is on the pitch, especially in one-on-one situations.
“I remember one reserve match against Jura Sud in November 2011 – it was so cold and foggy that you couldn’t see 20 metres in front of you. The game was almost cancelled.
“Mané was sat on the bench and he came on. We couldn’t see the opponents properly; we just said, ‘Give the ball to Sadio.’ We wanted him to dribble past opponents and score.
“He didn’t in the end, but he caused mayhem. We ended up winning 2-1.”
Mane missed Liverpool’s past two Premier League wins, but thankfully the team got through both without him – schooling West Ham 2-0 and thumping Southampton 4-0 following a difficult first-half.
The lead at the top of the Premier League is 22 points, and Mane should be back for the Norwich tie on February 15 and the Champions League clash with Atletico Madrid that follows right after.
The no.10 is currently on 15 goals in all competitions this term, and we reckon he could actually better the 26 he notched in 2018/19 if he hits form.