Rich vein of form sees Sadio emerge as Liverpool's main man… but modest Mane is still focused on team goals

Rich vein of form sees Sadio emerge as Liverpool’s main man… but modest Mane is still focused on team goals

  • Senegal star Sadio Mane has been Liverpool’s main man in recent weeks
  • He has scored 10 goals in as many games, including two against Bayern Munich
  • Mane remains modest and cares more about the team than individual acclaim
  • But he could be the key as Liverpool chase Premier League and European glory

Sadio Mane’s father was the imam of the mosque in Bambali, the Senegalese village where he grew up and was unconvinced about his son’s dreams to be a footballer.

His father thought it would change him for the worse, possibly make him more worldly.

He really need not have worried. There probably isn’t a footballer on the planet less in search of the limelight than Mane. Certainly there is unlikely to be one as good as Mane who is quite so reluctant to make a fuss about himself.

Senegal star Sadio Mane, pictured on Wednesday, has been Liverpool's main man recently

Senegal star Sadio Mane, pictured on Wednesday, has been Liverpool’s main man recently

On Wednesday in Munich, he scored two wonderful goals, his 10th goal in as many games. The first, when he sensed the foolishness of Manuel Neuer rushing from his line, then dummied him before calmly lifting the ball over him and assorted defenders, was a delight.

‘It was a really nice goal,’ he says, with that shy grin. That’s as close to ego as he will venture.

He had to be coerced into TV interviews that night. By the time he emerged into the tunnel area at Allianz Arena, it was so late, almost all the media had left.

As he speaks, he bows his head, making only occasional eye contact and looks as though he still wonders what all the fuss is about.

Most strikers have a selfish streak, he is told, and he looks incredulous. ‘I think this is not important for the team,’ he says. ‘We are not here to be conquerors. I think it doesn’t help the team. For us the team is more important all the time.

‘We are trying to play together and help each other to score goals. And move forward to win something.’

'It was a really nice goal,' Mane said after embarrassing Bayern Munich keeper Manuel Neuer

‘It was a really nice goal,’ Mane said after embarrassing Bayern Munich keeper Manuel Neuer

Of course, Sunday can be a significant step forward in that respect. Win against Fulham and Liverpool will enter the international break top of the Premier League, two points clear of Manchester City, who were distracted by FA Cup action on Saturday. Mane will be crucial to Liverpool in the final eight Premier League games, as well as the Champions League campaign.

TEN IN TEN FOR MANE 

Sadio Mane’s second goal against Bayern Munich was his 10th in his last 10 games for Liverpool. 

At present, he is only one goal behind Mohamed Salah, on 19 for the season, after scoring 20 last year.

And since Salah has struggled for goalscoring form, with a run of six games without a goal, Mane has picked up the slack.

Of course, the interaction between the pair and Roberto Firmino is the key to this Liverpool team, as was demonstrated by the sublime cross from Salah for Mane for the second in Munich. Yet for now it is Mane who picks up the scoring mantle.

‘We have a very good relationship,’ says Mane. ‘Sometimes it’s not easy if a player doesn’t score goals but it really important for us to play together as a team and to help each other. Sometimes Mo scores, sometimes Bobby, sometimes me. This is great for the team.’

Mane also scored with a header in Wednesday's 3-1 win in Munich, taking his tally to 10 in 10

Mane also scored with a header in Wednesday’s 3-1 win in Munich, taking his tally to 10 in 10

Mane felt it important that they stayed in the Champions League to maintain momentum in the Premier League. Liverpool are 13 points better off in the league than this time last year. ‘The team, of course, is better. We’ve improved a lot even if it was not an easy few weeks.’

There is no doubt something has changed this season.

Partly it is the defensive stats. Liverpool had conceded 34 goals in the league this time last year, yet just 17 so far this season.

That’s the impact of Virgil van Dijk having settled in, but also the fact that the midfield takes less risks.

But Liverpool have another issue. Those sensational spells of football against Manchester City and Roma last season mean everyone approaches them more warily now.

Mohamed Salah has not netted in his last six but is still Liverpool's top scorer this season

Mohamed Salah has not netted in his last six but is still Liverpool’s top scorer this season

They have matched their league scoring. At this stage last season they had scored 68 goals, the same total they have scored now. The difference is the Champions League. Prior to the quarter-final last year they had scored 28 goals, as opposed to 12 so far this season.

‘I think it will be very difficult because all the teams know us,’ said Mane. ‘They watch our video to know how we play and, to be honest, I think it will be difficult to repeat last season the same way in the Champions League.

‘But we’re professional and we’re going to try to adapt and keep working hard to believe ourselves and go forward.

‘This year is harder than last year. But that’s normal. It’s part of football. We have to deal with it when we know it will be not easy. But we pray that when it gets difficult at the end, we will get results.’

Klopp also admitted this week that it’s harder to play some of the champagne football from last year because of the growing respect.

‘We have to get used to that,’ Klopp said. ‘There’s nothing good without something bad but we have adapted.

‘We are much more calm in different situations but still creative. How Bayern played was obviously a big sign of respect. That’s how a team develops. The better you get the more respect you get.

‘The problem is that, in the football world, opponents never sleep. You might have a little advantage one season but they fight back like crazy the next season.

‘Now we have to finish this season the best way possible. Dig in, push ourselves, all that stuff.

‘There are eight games to go in the league and games in the Champions League. We all feel we have a big opportunity, but, of course, at the end people only judge it by titles. ‘We have improved a lot, but we know we haven’t won anything yet.’

Not yet. But it is getting very close. 

Jurgen Klopp admitted it has been hard for his team to play their best against wary opponents

Jurgen Klopp admitted it has been hard for his team to play their best against wary opponents