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Sadio Mane’s journey from Africa to Liverpool and Ballon d’Or nomination

Jake Jackman

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Mane

Sadio Mane has had a fascinating journey to the top of European football. The Liverpool forward was one of 30 players nominated for the 2017 Ballon d’Or award earlier this week and it represents another landmark in his progression. There are many that feel he is undeserving of the nomination as he has been included in the list ahead of Alexis Sanchez among others, but he has had a great year for his club especially, helping them to qualify for the Champions League once again.

He is one of only two African players to be on the shortlist, alongside Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and that consolidates his position as one of the best from the continent. During the African Cup of Nations, he managed to score twice and played a prominent role as the side got to the quarter-final stage. It was a disappointment to go out at that point in the competition and they did so on a penalty shoot-out. Mane missed the crucial spot-kick.

There have been better players to have missed a penalty in the history of football and Mane didn’t let that define his year. He returned to Anfield and helped the side return to form in the Premier League, which consolidated their position in the top four. The 26-year-old scored the two goals that earned the three points against Tottenham, before adding strikes against Arsenal and Everton. The former Southampton player regularly turns up in the big matches and that is another reason why he is on the shortlist for the award.

During his first season with Liverpool, Mane contributed 13 goals and five assists in the Premier League, which is a superb return given the initial scepticism regarding his signature. The style of play that Jurgen Klopp promotes suits the Senegal international and his game is developing quickly as a result. At the time, he was signed from Southampton, it would have been ludicrous to suggest he was capable of earning a nomination for the Ballon d’Or as early as 2017, but he has managed just that.

His journey to Liverpool

It can be difficult to break out into European football from Africa and it takes a great deal of luck, not only to be spotted but to be given the opportunity to make the journey. He grew up on the streets of Sedhiou and at the age of 15, he made the long trip to Dakar in the hope of progressing in his chosen career of football. It was a huge risk and not an easily accessible one, but Mane gambled on his talent and that turned out to be a great decision.

His story is another rags-to-riches, as he turned up to the trial in Dakar with old, torn up boots and regular shorts. This surprised one of the coaches, who looked at the 15-year-old like he was out of place. Mane recalled the story to Goal:

“I told him what I came with was the best I had, and I only wanted to play – to show myself. When I got on the pitch, you could see the surprise on his face. 

“He came to me and said ‘I’m picking you straight away. You’ll play in my team.’ After those trials, I went to the academy.”

The academy in question was Generation Foot, which also helped Diafra Sakho and Papiss Cisse make the switch to European football. His family were initially against his decision to move to Dakar and attempt to forge a career in football, but they were swayed by his passion and determination to succeed in his dream.

Generation Foot have a deal in place which allows one young player to move to France each year with Metz. Papiss Cisse benefitted from this and Mane followed in his footsteps at the age of 18. It was the breakthrough that he needed to get his foot in thedoor in Europe. He hasn’t looked back since.

The speedster’s time in France was short, but he did enough to earn a place in the Senegal squad for the 2012 Olympics and his performances in that competition convinced Red Bull Salzburg to make a move for him. The transfer fee was believed to be €4 million and it was the third biggest fee that Metz has ever received. Red Bull have been criticised for a lot since their decision to move into football, but their clubs are excellent at developing young players. Mane is one of their notable success stories.

It was during his time at Salzburg that he worked under Roger Schmidt, who he has since praised as one of the biggest influences in his career. He is a coach that shares similar qualities with Jurgen Klopp in terms of pressing from the front and the period Mane spent there has helped prepare him to be a success at Liverpool.

“He was a big influence on my career thanks to the way he believed in me and helped me so much.

“I was still young when I went to Salzburg and working under him really helped me to grow up and grow up as a player. I learned about tactics and different ways to play the game.”

Mane was only with Salzburg for two full seasons, but it was a key period of his development and helped shape him into the player that we see today at Liverpool. During the 2014 transfer window, he was signed by Southampton and became the most expensive player from Senegal. The fee was £11.8 million, which was later eclipsed when he joined the Reds for an eye-watering £34 million.

There were many that doubted the transfer to Anfield, but he has scored double figures in his last five league campaigns, including three successive in the Premier League. Mane is a goal-scorer and a constant threat in the final third.

Mady Touré is the man responsible for establishing the Generation Foot academy after injuries ended his promising football career. After Mane’s great start to life in England, his mentor told The Guardian:

“Of course I am very proud of Sadio. But he is not my player. He’s my son. I’ve known him since he was a kid so to see him doing so well is fantastic. Today we talk about Messi and Neymar but honestly I don’t think these players are as good as Sadio Mané.”

At the time, many believed Touré was looking at the player with a heavy degree of bias. He had started well for Southampton, but it was ridiculous to make the comparisons to Lionel Messi and Neymar, two of the best players in the world. There is some element to that in his statement, but it is difficult not to see Mane as one of the best players Africa has produced in recent times. Although it wasn’t a straightforward journey to the top, he is now there and will be keen to continue pushing on to bigger and better things.

Jake is a journalist based in the South East. He is a Newcastle United fan and has a keen interest in Dutch football. Jake can be found on Twitter here - @jakejackmann.

Liverpool

Liverpool’s reported £70m and Keylor Navas deal for Sadio Mane could improve team

If Liverpool’s reported pursuit came off, could they be better off without their forward?

Jamie Watts

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Photo: Getty Images

Real Madrid are reportedly interested in signing Liverpool‘s Senegalese speedster Sadio Mane this summer, and are said to have offered terms the Reds should seriously consider, according to Diario Gol.

The European champions are reportedly offering a staggering 80 million euros (£70 million) and their current number one, Keylor Navas, for Mane’s services. And the question bears asking: would Liverpool be better off as a team accepting the terms, considering their reported pursuit of Lorenzo Insigne? (TransferMarketWeb).

Photo: Getty Images

The suggested fee would put Liverpool in with a great chance of landing the Napoli superstar, while pocketing a fair amount to improve other areas of the team.

Klopp undoubtedly needs to resolve the goalkeeper situation at Liverpool, with Lloris Karius showing he isn’t up to the required standard at such a huge club.

And, so far, linked stoppers are being touted for ridiculous fees, with the likes of Jasper Cillessen and Alisson supposedly sitting on price-tags well in excess of £50 million for their services.

Photo: Getty Images

Navas could represent the best option for Liverpool in their current predicament then, and although losing Mane doesn’t bear thinking about for fans, if the brilliant Insigne can be brought to Anfield, the club must surely consider Real’s offer.

The point needs stressing though, Insigne is vital in any deal, and if Napoli aren’t serious about moving the 27-year-old on, the Reds should dismiss any talk of Mane leaving this summer.

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Croatia

Liverpool fans want Ivan Rakitic following brilliant performance against Argentina

Liverpool fans want yet another top midfielder at the club this summer.

Jamie Watts

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Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic was nothing short of sensational last night in Croatia’s 3-0 dismantling of Argentina, and Liverpool fans have taken to social media to commend the midfielder, with many asserting that Jurgen Klopp should sign him this summer.

Luka Modric was in his usual scintillating form in the centre of the park, but Rakitic was equally as good, and the two essentially ran the game for the whole duration, as Argentina scratched their heads for a way to get into the game.

Photo: Getty Images

The 30-year-old rounded off a truly dominant display by slotting home into an empty net from close range, after Mateo Kovacic unselfishly played him in, but it was nothing less than Rakatic’s performance deserved on the night.

Reds fans, having already secured the high-profile signings of Naby Keita and Fabinho, took to Twitter to suggest that the club should complete a hat-trick of midfield acquisitions this summer and bring the £60 million rated man to Anfield.

Here’s the reaction:

It has to be said that the logistics of completing a deal for the Barcelona man, who was ever-present in the side last season, make any serious movement unlikely on Liverpool’s front. But many are starting to regret the club’s decision to turn their nose up at the prospect of signing him, in a make-weight deal for Philippe Coutinho last summer.

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Liverpool

Jurgen Klopp should bring in Emil Forsberg to replace Adam Lallana

The Swedish star is keen on leaving RB Leipzig this summer and Liverpool have been linked in the past.

Mathew Nash

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It seems Sweden midfielder Emil Forsberg has made his mind up over his RB Leipzig future. The talented playmaker has told Fotbolskanalen in his homeland:

“I’m ready for the next big step. That’s going to be very interesting.

“I am in dialogue with RB and always had a good relationship with the club.

“I have the dream of playing for the strongest clubs in the world.”

Those words certainly suggest he is on his way. Plenty of teams have been linked with the player recently.

One such English club is Liverpool. As recently as May it was reported that the Swedish talent would cost £47 million, according to SportExpressen.

That seems a little high and Liverpool could surely get the player cheaper.

(Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

It is definitely a deal Liverpool should consider. Forsberg is a similar talent to Adam Lallana.

Capable of playing anywhere along the front behind the front-man he relies on his cunning, technique and brains too make up for his lack of pace.

In fact, when watching highlights of the pair in action, the similarities are uncanny.

However, Forsberg is four years younger than Lallana and the ex-Southampton man’s recent injury record has been awful.

Undoubtedly, Lallana is a magnificent talent. He is also a favourite of Jurgen Klopp’s, often considered the German’s teacher’s pet.

But Liverpool simply cannot rely on the 30-year-old to stay fit anymore. Klopp loves him, but he would love Forsberg just as much.

It might be time for Liverpool to trade in for a newer model.

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