It all started in the small town of Bambaly in the south of the West African country of Senegal, in the watery district of Casamance, where there was a long lack of basic infrastructure such as schools or medical care. It’s a place that Mané, who comes from “poor backgrounds,” as he once said, is always happy to return to. To help. “To give back something of what the people here have given me.” The 30-year-old is loved throughout the country for his down-to-earthness and humility. His fans praised Africa’s 2019 Footballer of the Year on social media for his “incomparable modesty” and see him as a “national hero”. At the latest when Mané shot the national team to their first African title with his penalty in the final against Egypt in February, he became immortal for the Senegalese.
But Mané is also an outstanding personality in Senegal off the pitch. Again and again he supports charitable projects. In his home town, for example, he played a key role in financing the construction of a mosque, a school and a hospital. Despite his popularity, he has never forgotten his roots. He recently organized a benefit game – right on the football pitch where he used to play barefoot for hours a day when he was younger. He invited other well-known footballers from the country, including his great idol El-Hadji Diouf, who led Senegal to the quarter-finals of the 2002 World Cup.
With the exception of a Bentley, Mané does not attach great importance to material possessions such as yachts or villas. He does not use the image of the luxury life of a professional footballer worth millions, which is also cultivated by many Bayern stars. The striker is sporty. “Sadio is at the peak of his career, at a great age, is in great shape and has a thirst for titles – he’s at exactly the right club,” said Munich sporting director Hasan Salihamidžić on Tuesday afternoon. FC Bayern has to pay 32 million euros plus possible bonuses of nine million euros to Liverpool FC, where Mané became a world star.
This career was anything but natural. Mané’s parents – he lost his father at the age of seven – actually wanted their son to take a different path and become a teacher. “They thought football was a waste of time and I would never make it,” Mané once said. But for him it was always the only job he could imagine, also to be able to help his family. With a strong will and firm belief, he made it. He always trusted his abilities – and was willing to work harder than others to achieve his dream.
As a teenager, Mané went to the Senegalese capital Dakar all by himself. There he tried to find a football academy in order to make the leap to becoming a professional, preferably to Europe. But his money was no longer enough for the more than 300-kilometer bus ride alone. So he borrowed the money for the bus ticket from a friend. In Dakar he stayed with a friend’s family. He was gone for several weeks. At home nobody knew where he was. When his family found him, they sent him home and Mané had to put his plans to rest. But his decision was made: the impressions he made in Dakar made it clear once again that there was only one thing for him: a career as a footballer. “After my return, I said to my family: ‘I’ll go to school for another year, then I’ll leave the village and you won’t see me again until I’ve become a footballer’,” Mané once reported on his difficult career.
In the end he was to be right. Fortunately for Senegalese football. It wasn’t until he was 17 that Mané, who was “only” 1.75 meters tall, finally made it into the Senegalese youth academy “Generation Foot”. Two years later he moved to FC Metz, then to Red Bull Salzburg. In between he became a national team player. In 2014 he moved to the Premier League. In the league he always wanted to play in. His first stop on the island was Southampton FC, followed in 2016 by a move to Jürgen Klopp and Liverpool FC. There he formed a feared strike duo with the Egyptian Mohamed Salah. Overall, Mané scored 111 goals in the Premier League, became English champion and won the Champions League in 2019. Klopp praised the Senegalese to the skies and raved about his physicality, commitment and good technique.
So now the Bundesliga can look forward to him as well. Mané has signed a three-year contract with Munich. The Senegalese football newspaper »Stades« already sees Mané, who is already diligently studying German, as the »future emperor«. Curious: According to a survey on Säbener Straße, a majority of Senegalese wanted to see him, the newspaper reported. Mané then had it announced in the Senegalese media that he would then “of course bow to this wish”. As always, Sadio Mané is a man of the people.