Bayern's need for speed and Mane arrival can fuel Champions League bid

How Bayern Munich’s need for speed can turn them into Champions League challengers again: Arrival of £35m Sadio Mane adds to star-studded list of wing wizards including Leroy Sane and Serge Gnabry… and he can also fill the void left by Robert Lewandowski

  • Sadio Mane completed his £35.1million move Bayern Munich on Wednesday  
  • He has experience at winning the one trophy they want, the Champions League 
  • His trickery from both wings, and perhaps even as the No 9, will prove crucial 
  • Mane may also help fill the gaping gap left behind by Robert Lewandowski’s exit 

Sadio Mane’s six-year spell at Liverpool is over after officially joining Bayern Munich. A selfless and classy performer, he would likely not have said no to running the whole way there himself, and Liverpool have lost one of their greatest players.

The forward was officially unveiled on Wednesday at the Allianz Arena following his £35.1million transfer. Those at Anfield were reluctant to let him go, but they were fighting a losing battle as soon as his intention to leave became clear. 

The back end of last season was marred by Mane’s musings over his future. Jurgen Klopp’s preparations for the Champions League final were occasionally halted by questions, and his team-mates would have known he was casting glances elsewhere.

Bayern Munich have signed Sadio Mane from Liverpool and he has penned a three-year deal

Jurgen Klopp and others at Anfield did not want the forward to leave, but a sale went through

He will be sorely missed. After all, he scored 120 goals during his six-year stint and helped his side win six trophies, including the Champions League and the Premier League. His new employers are getting an experienced head and quality personified.

Mane is their third signing of the transfer window, and is their most important. While Julian Nagelsmann has plenty to solve during the off-season, the addition of the tricky winger, who can also play in the No 9 role, will help ease some of his troubles.

Jordan Henderson heaped praise on him towards the end of the last campaign, and pointed to Mane’s willingness to burst a lung for the greater good.

‘His performances are always incredible,’ he said. 

Mane has been widely praised by his team-mates and coaches and is a superb buy by Bayern

He also has experience winning the trophy his new club covets most, the Champions League

‘The amount of work he does for the team off the ball as well, defending there at the end, winning the ball back high up.’

His energy and relentless pressing will fit in seamlessly with Nagelsmann’s style of play. Last year, only parts of his system were evident, and the young coach will be determined to get his team fighting fit and pushing for the biggest trophies again.

The manager’s attempts to do just that will be made easier by the star-studded list of wing wizards at his disposal. The likes of Leroy Sane, Serge Gnabry and Kingsley Coman occupy spots out wide, while Alphonso Davies also flies forward on the left.

Football, of course, is not all about who has the fastest team. Rather, games are decided by cohesion and individuals making the right decisions at the right times. Nagelsmann is a fast learner, and will know that Mane will play where he is needed.

Julian Nagelsmann came under scrutiny last season and will be hoping to kick on next term

We are talking about a player who has won the Premier League Golden Boot and also holds a special piece of top-flight as his own, namely the quickest hat-trick, which he scored for Southampton against Aston Villa in just two minutes 56 seconds in 2015. 

Bayern have paid more than they wanted, but every penny represents sheer value – and if he helps them push for the Champions League, there will be zero complaints.

Nagelsmann may have been soaked in beer within minutes of his side sealing their Bundesliga title this season, their 10th in a row, but the 34-year-old openly admitted just weeks before the celebrations that the campaign had not been a success.

His team were knocked out by Villarreal in the quarter-final stage of the competition their supporters wanted to win the most, crashing out 2-1 on aggregate. They were left stunned by the underdogs, and the result was a real body blow to their coach.

Serge Gnabry (L) and Leroy Sane (R) are two of an enviable group of wing wizards at the club

‘We are out of the German Cup, out of the Champions League,’ he said. 

‘I don’t think this is good enough for Bayern. We had the semi-finals as our minimum goal and we failed to achieve it. It counts as one of my top three defeats.’ 

Bayern were accused of lacking in big game nous, while they were certainly sloppy at the back and blunt in attack. Worryingly, Nagelsmann’s sides haven’t suffered from a lack of creativity in the past, leading to suggestions that he was out of his depth. 

There was also an overreliance on Robert Lewandowski, and that will have to change with the veteran striker hell-bent on securing an exit from Bavaria this summer.

Bayern were stunned by Villarreal in the quarter-final stages of last term’s Champions League

Their situation has been made worse by Robert Lewandowski expressing his desire to leave

But this is where the signing of Mane comes in very handy indeed. 

Nagelsmann has been heavily influenced by the philosophy of Ralf Rangnick, who, aside from his disastrous spell at Manchester United, has instructed his players to press. The duo are closely linked, and continue to mirror each other’s work.

‘Thirty per cent of coaching is tactics, 70 per cent social competence,’ Nagelsmann once said when quizzed on his style. Mane fits into both these categories perfectly.

Since taking the reins in Munich, he has favoured a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Lewandowski the out and out frontman. Out wide, he has tended to select his wingers on the same flank as their stronger foot, with Thomas Muller as a No 10.

Mane is versatile, meaning he could feasibly play as a false nine or on either of the flanks

There are also lots of rotations, allowing the full backs to bomb on to join the attack.

Again, Mane would be able to slot perfectly into his structure, while he would also be afforded time to rest due to the strength in depth Nagelsmann has on the bench.

Last season, Bayern were propelled by, and perhaps also haunted by, the sense that anything was possible for them in their new era. There were sweeping changes at the very top of the club, while new players were being integrated into the team.

It is worth casting back to when they cruised through their Champions League group with six victories and a +19 goal difference to remember just how good they were at times. However, the same competition is also where their campaign unravelled.

Nagelsmann has strength in depth in reserve, and Mane would slot seamlessly into his system

Kingsley Coman is another star who could provide competition for the new £35million arrival

Nagelsmann has been haunted by the failure on the biggest stage of them all, and also hinted at other factors lurking behind his surprisingly downbeat mood.

‘My excitement is a bit dampened by the last two weeks,’ he said. ‘It’s not just the results – it’s also a few things going on around them.’

He could have been pointing at the uncertainty over the future of Lewandowski. 

That is because Barcelona are reportedly preparing an offer of £43m for the talismanic ace, who has made no secret of his desire to move on in this window.

Lewandowski, pictured playing for Poland this month, will leave a large void behind at Bayern

Members of the Nou Camp club have voted to ease the pressure on their finances by selling off a portion of their merchandising and television revenue last week, and that has freed up cash for them to put towards snapping up their No 1 target. 

He will leave behind a gaping void in Bavaria, having scored 50 goals in 46 matches last season. But in a crisis comes opportunity, and the door is open for Mane to join, settle in and immediately make himself into a fan favourite for seasons to come. 

His flexibility is a major bonus for his manager. Mane can play as a false 9 should Lewandowski walk away, and is also equally adept on either side of a 4-3-3 – a concept Nagelsmann has been toying with for quite some time, it is understood. 

With enough quality in reserve and devilish creativity across the pitch, the puzzle is gradually beginning to come together. They will need to rely on other elements, too, perhaps even luck, if they are to win the Champions League, but they may be closer.

But Mane’s signing will go some way to helping them kick on and push for the biggest trophies

Surprisingly, they have not been linked with many other targets. There is an interest in Stuttgart ace Sasa Kalajdzic, but talks have been put on the backburner. He could provide a much-needed physical presence, while those around him cause havoc. 

This is the type of set-up Mane would flourish in, one which is ever-changing and allows its attackers to do what they do best. Combine that with his understanding of his defensive responsibilities, and he is an archetypal Nagelsmann player.

Most importantly, perhaps, he has already won the Champions League once before. At Bayern, he will spearhead their bid for his second next season and one thing is for sure – he will play with his usual grin and leave everything he can on the pitch.

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