With Bundesliga opening night almost upon us, Bayern Munich's new sharpshooter, Sadio Mane, says he can't wait to play in, "One of the great European atmospheres," with the mighty Bavarians at Deutsche Bank Park to face Eintracht Frankfurt on Friday.
Having showcased his formidable talent in what turned out to be a goalscoring, competitive debut during last weekend's Supercup victory against Leipzig, Bayern's Senegalese superstar has switched his focus to UEFA Europa League champions Frankfurt and a Matchday 1 fixture that promises end-to-end entertainment.
"I’m really looking forward to it because, from the outset, if you play for Bayern Munich you definitely have targets," the 30-year-old said in an exclusive interview with bundesliga.com. "We know it won’t be an easy game. I heard about Frankfurt; they have one of the great European atmospheres. I think that’s what makes this sport special. Myself and the boys are really excited."
As are the watching world, who can expect an intriguing contest between two teams who have both enjoyed victories in this particular match-up over the past couple of seasons.
Watch: Mane & Bayern up and running with Supercup
All set to take his first steps in the Bundesliga, Mane is also looking forward to following the ups and downs of a competition he has followed from afar over the years. "As I’ve said since the beginning, I like this league," the former Liverpool striking sensation explained. "When I was in Austria [with Red Bull Salzburg], I mostly watched Bundesliga games. It’s interesting, the matches are open, there are a lot of goals," he continued. "The people [here] are passionate, the stadiums are full. Obviously, that’s the charm of this league. I’m very excited to get started."
As beginnings go, Mane's Bayern start has been exceptional. Backing up a pre-season friendly goal with another strike in the 5-3 victory against Leipzig and a first trophy win, the omens are good for the African Player of the Year as he gets set for a new footballing adventure.
"It was joyful to see how good the boys were and the hunger they had before the [Supercup] and during that game too," Bayern's new No. 17 said. "They [are making] everything easier for me as a new player. At the same time [I'm] really happy, especially to be a part of this side and to win my first trophy with the team,” he continued. "I tried to play with my experience [against Leipzig], but of course, it’s normal as a player to get a little bit nervous because you always want prove [yourself] and to improve."
Mane once scored a UEFA Champions League double for Liverpool against his current teammate, goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, back in 2019. The first of his double that March night in the tournament's round of 16 was a fleet-footed finish that became one of the African Player of the Year's career favourites. Such is the jubilant mood among Mane and his new teammates these days, however, that the forward even decided to demote the aforementioned strike in his personal 'best of' list. "I said [that was] maybe my favourite [goal] but now I would say it's second favourite goal, not my first, because [Neuer's] my teammate," Mane said with a smile. "No, I’m joking, of course; I think it was a good goal," he added.
"We had a good game [that night] but that's behind us. If [the teams] are going to meet again, of course as Bayern Munich we’d beat Liverpool."
Communication with his Bayern teammates improving all the time, Mane still sees room for improvement in terms of his German language skills, something the new Bundesliga arrival said he is looking forward to getting stuck into.
Watch: Mane - the Bundesliga's new superstar
"I was in Austria for two years around eight years ago," he explained. "Since then, I haven’t had the opportunity to talk with Germans or to speak German but since I’m not that bad at learning new languages, I'll try to learn as fast as possible, to get better and to start doing interviews in German. For me, it's important to understand the language, especially for training and during the games."
The Bambali native understood every word of an emotional unveiling at Bayern several weeks ago, when he was serenaded by scores of Senegalese fans in attendance at the Allianz Arena on what turned out to be a very special day for the forward. "I didn’t expect it, it was amazing," Mane said.
"When I saw [the fans] singing this famous Senegalese song in the stadium, I got emotional. It's a language from my home, which is called the Wolof; the [supporters] sang in that language," he added. "That meant everything. You have to give your all whenever you go back home. I also think that you have to be there for your country. Seeing all those people being there for you is proof of that. I think that every Senegalese footballer feels the same."
Feeling more and more at home in Munich with each passing day, Mane now has his sights set on more success in the Bavarian capital to add to his numerous feats at Liverpool. "I came here to win all the games possible, and of course, to win all the trophies," the ex-Metz and Southampton attacker assured.
"I want to be clear, I don’t think [that will be] easy [but] if you play for Bayern Munich, before the beginning of the season your target is to win all the trophies possible. I’m here to help my teammates and to achieve our dreams." For Mane and Bayern, the road to fulfilling those dreams begins in Frankfurt this Friday night.
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