His first season on Merseyside would be cut short by a knee injury sustained against Everton in April, but he would still finish it as Liverpool’s soccer professional of the year. Highlights included not only that Arsenal strike, but a stoppage-time derby winner at Goodison Park in December. He finished with 13 goals from 29 appearances.
Mohamed Salah’s arrival in 2017 necessitated a change of position, with Mane switching from the right flank to the left as Klopp’s side looked to evolve.
His form, though, barely suffered. As Liverpool went all the way to the Champions League final, Mane scored in every single round.
That included three goals across the semi-final against Roma, a key goal in the quarter-final win over Manchester City and a hat-trick at Porto in the last 16.
In the final against Real Madrid, Mane was on the scoresheet once more as Liverpool, robbed of Salah’s services through a first-half injury, went down 3-1 in Kiev’s NSC Olympiyskiy Stadium. It was a heartbreaking end to a memorable season, in which Mane had scored 20 goals in all competitions and formed a deadly forward line alongside Salah and Firmino.
He would score for Senegal at the World Cup that summer, netting in a 2-2 draw with Japan. His country, though, would be controversially eliminated at the group stage courtesy of the Fair Play table, with the Japanese advancing to the last 16.
The night, though, has been darkest before dawn, and the 2018/19 season proved to be Mane’s best yet. He scored twice for Liverpool on the opening day and never looked back. His 22 Premier League goals gave him, along with fellow African stars Salah and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, a share of the Golden Boot, while his performances helped Liverpool to a record points total of 97. They missed out on the title to Manchester City only on the final weekend.
Their consolation prize wasn’t bad, though. Yet again, Klopp’s team navigated its way to the Champions League final. Yet again, Mane provided some of the key moments. His goal against Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena in the last 16 was one of the finest seen in Europe all season, he scored away at Porto in the quarter-finals and was part of that epic, never-to-be-repeated fightback from 3-0 against Barcelona in the semis.
In the final against Tottenham, it was his run and cross which led to Liverpool’s first goal, scored by Salah from the penalty spot after a handball by Moussa Sissoko. Divock Origi wrapped up the victory late on and Mane had his hands on that precious gold.
Not bad for a kid from Bambali with torn boots, eh?
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