It’s safe to say that many fans weren’t exactly impressed by Liverpool’s decision to sign Sadio Mané in 2016. Just look at some of the replies when the deal was revealed on Twitter.
Six years later Mane is departing Anfield as one of the greatest players on the face of the planet, having helped fire Liverpool to Champions League and Premier League glory. Not bad.
Unsurprisingly, his time at Anfield has been full of countless moments of individual brilliance, but let’s take a look some of the very best.
Weeks after sealing his £34m move from Southampton, Mané made his debut against Arsenal in August 2016.
After watching his side fall behind, Mané scored what would end up being the winning goal in a 4-3 victory, bursting past Calum Chambers and firing an excellent effort into the top corner.
When asked to name his favourite goal for the club on Instagram, Mané said: “I will go for the one I scored against Arsenal. It was my first official game for Liverpool so it was incredible. I will never forget it.”
Mané’s first taste of the Merseyside derby came in December 2016 when he travelled to Goodison Park to meet Everton, and he was Liverpool’s saviour that day.
In the 94th minute of the game, Daniel Sturridge saw a strike rebound off the post, but Mané reacted quickest and poked home into an empty net to give the Reds the win.
It was the start of a great run against the Toffees for Mané, who is yet to come out on the losing side of a derby.
Mané became just the second player in Liverpool history to score a Champions League hat-trick away from home when he put three past Porto in February 2018.
His first was down to some sloppy goalkeeping from José Sá, and his second was a rebound from a Roberto Firmino strike, but his third was a moment of real quality as he thundered home an effort from outside the box.
The first player to score an away hat-trick for Liverpool? Michael Owen, who managed it against both Haka and Spartak Moscow in 2001 and 2002 respectively.
The 2017/18 Champions League final wasn’t the happiest night for Liverpool, who fell 3-1 to Real Madrid on the grandest stage of them all.
However, for Mané, there was a shining light as he managed to get on the score sheet that night, realising a dream which every football fan had as a child.
The 2019 final was probably a little more fun, though.
Seeing Liverpool pick up a 4-1 win over Cardiff City back in October 2018 didn’t come as a surprise to anyone. The Reds were dominant, and they owed a lot of that to Mané.
The ball seemed glued to his foot for his first goal as Mané somehow weaved his way past three players, before he sent a powerful effort crashing into the bottom corner.
Mané added a second with a delightful chip late on to seal one of his finest showings in Liverpool red.
Mané needed just 20 minutes to bag twice in February 2019’s 5-0 win over Watford, and both his goals were right out the top drawer.
His surprisingly impressive aerial ability was on show for his first as Mané leapt into the sky to head home a powerful effort, but it was his second which stole the show.
Mané waltzed into an acre of space in the penalty area, where he was found by Trent Alexander-Arnold’s magic right foot. He took the ball down and, with his back to goal, flicked a delightful backheel which left Ben Foster with no chance.
You can argue that scoring against Cardiff and Watford shouldn’t be too hard for Liverpool’s starting winger, but how about a double against Bayern Munich?
After being held 0-0 at Anfield in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 clash, Liverpool went to the Allianz Arena knowing they were on the ropes, but Mané was up for the fight.
He wrong-footed Manuel Neuer to open the scoring, and headed home his side’s third late on to seal a stunning 3-1 victory.
His goalscoring pedigree was rewarded at the end of the 2018/19 season as Mané shared the Premier League’s Golden Boot award with both Mohamed Salah and Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Mané ended the season with 22 goals and two assists in 36 appearances, and he added another four strikes in the Champions League for good measure.
Those goals brought Liverpool within touching distance of the title that season, but they finally managed to go one step further this year.
Since leaving Southampton, Mané blossomed into a lethal goalscorer, and he took the chance to showcase his new skills to his former side in August 2019.
Picking up the ball on the edge of the area, Mané fired a sumptuous curling effort through two defenders which soared into the back of the net in the blink of an eye.
He could have bagged at least two assists before Roberto Firmino finally found the back of the net after the break, steering Jürgen Klopp’s side to a 2-1 win.
The Ballon d’Or is the pinnacle of individual achievement in football, and Mané was right up there when the final standings for the 2019 award were released.
The Senegal international finished fourth in voting, coming behind only Lionel Messi, Virgil van Dijk and Cristiano Ronaldo. Esteemed company indeed.
It was the moment which proved Mané’s status as one of the world’s elite, and judging by his performances ever since, he’s gunning for top spot.
Mane was one of the key reasons that the Reds finally ended their Premier League curse in 2020, netting 18 goals and chipping in with nine assists en route to the title.
If it wasn’t for Pep Guardiola’s pesky Man City side he would be definitely be leaving Anfield with more than one top-flight trophy.
The 2020/21 campaign was a tough one for everyone at Liverpool with injuries decimating their defence and leaving Klopp’s men with an uphill task to defend their title.
That is not to say that Mane was completely starved of memorable moments, though. Right at the start of the campaign he netted twice in a 2-0 win over Chelsea – a result which seemed to signal the Reds as title favourites.
Obviously, that didn’t quite work out.
It’s a bit strange that Liverpool had not won the FA Cup under Jurgen Klopp until 2022 considering how dominant they have been since he arrived.
Mane helped the Reds shift this unfortunate record with a superb display against Man City in the semi-finals.
Liverpool were irresistible in the opening exchanges and a Mane brace helped them romp into a 3-0 lead that City failed to overturn.
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