Sadio Mane had season of highs and lows at Bayern Munich in 2022/23. We chart the Senegal star's brief spell in Germany that made him a Bundesliga champion...
It was on a date in late June 2022 when Bayern's website posted news of the arrival of Mane, after a transfer deal was reached with Liverpool. The news brought excitement and glee to Bayern supporters the world over, especially as the Bambali-born forward had previously expressed his admiration for the Bavarian giants.
The then 30-year-old's first competitive test in Bayern colours was the Supercup and a mouth-watering challenge against DFB Cup winners RB Leipzig. The reigning Bundesliga champions went on to win a spell-binding encounter by 5-3, with Mane converting a Serge Gnabry assist to make it 2-0. So far, so good.
Watch: All Sadio Mane's Bundesliga goals and assists in 2022/23
Next up, a trip to Eintracht Frankfurt and the curtain raiser to the Bundesliga season against a side that had lifted the UEFA Europa League trophy a little over two months prior. It was to be another ominous warning from Julian Nagelsmann's charges, who swatted the Eagles away with a 6-1 victory at Deutsche Bank Park, Mane on target once again.
A double against Bochum in one more high-scoring win followed soon afterwards, but as Bayern suddenly hit a dip in domestic form, Mane's numbers stalled somewhat too. "I spoke to him to tell him he should have more self-confidence and more confidence in his abilities as a leader," Naglesmann said, explaining his efforts to reassure a player who appeared to be entering his adaptive phase a touch later than normal.
"Switching from one club to another is not easy," Mane told UEFA's official website at the time. "I spent eight very nice years in England, six years at Liverpool [after] two at Southampton, and now I am in a new country."
A new country, new teammates, a new style of football and tactics. His professionalism and athleticism never in doubt, Mane's lull in front of goal was understandable. "It's not easy because everything changes so suddenly: people, training, everything; I need[ed] to adapt," Bayern's No.17 explained.
On 30 September, he was back on the scoresheet in an impressive 4-0 triumph against Bayer Leverkusen and his stats started to noticeably rise again from there. Still not 100 per cent used to Bayern's 4-2-2-2 formation, the Senegalese forward was refining his new role, all the while adding important goals and assists.
Prior to a fateful game against Werder Bremen in November, Mane had racked up 11 goals and four assist across four competitions. Poor luck prevented those digits being far more polished. The woodwork and having an incredible six goals ruled out in the Bundesliga proved unwanted obstacles.
Watch: Sadio Mane wins inaugural Socrates Prize
Nevertheless, with his form steadily improving, Mane was set fair for a tilt at World Cup glory with African champions Senegal, until a serious injury against Bremen on 8 November put paid to those hopes. Surgery to reattach a tendon to the head of his right fibula followed in Innsbruck and a rehabilitation programme began.
Despite the bitter disappointment of missing the global showdown in Qatar, a point of reflection would have left Mane satisfied with his overall form for Bayern prior to the break.
Only Jamal Musiala and Gnabry had been involved in more goals than Mane in the Bundesliga, while the club's summer signing was fourth in the league in terms of shots at goal (43) at the time. He eventually ended the campaign seven Bundesliga goals and five assists from 25 league appearances.
During Bayern's perfect group stage showing in the Champions League, meanwhile, Mane scored three times and laid on an assist while featuring in every game as the six-time winners finished ahead of Inter Milan, Barcelona and Viktoria Plzen in the section.
He made his long-awaited comeback from injury on 26 February 2023 as a second-half substitute against Union Berlin on Matchday 22, his first competitive appearance in more than three months.
"I'm basically happy with his job so far," Nagelsmann had said earlier in the season, adding, "I don't think he's reached his peak yet. I'm looking forward to his peak." Yet less than a month after Mane's return from injury, Nagelsmann had been dismissed and the Senegalese attacker now had to impress new boss Thomas Tuchel - all while feeling his way back to full fitness.
Bayern were ultimately crowned Bundesliga champions after a nail-biting finale on Matchday 34, and Mane was gearing up for his second campaign as part of the team's pre-season tour of Asia when it was announced prior to the club's friendly against Kawasaki Frontale in Tokyo that was "in contract talks ahead of a possible transfer and so is not in today's squad."
A move to Saudi Arabian club Al Nassr was sealed on 1 August, bringing an end to his time in the Bundesliga. Thank you for the memories, Sadio!
Sadio Mane in numbers
The stats behind the Senegal star's season in the Bundesliga with Bayern...
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