The move of Sadio Mane to Bayern Munich last year seemed like a logical next step in his already remarkable career. Having helped Liverpool win the Premier League and the Champions League, he was prepared to take on a fresh challenge. Bayern was in need of an accomplished goal scorer to replace Robert Lewandowski, who had left for Barcelona, and Mane’s signing for a fee of £27.4m, which could have gone up to £35m, seemed like an excellent value for the club. It was hoped that Mane would be able to contribute a steady stream of goals to keep Bayern dominant in Germany and give them a chance in the Champions League.
Unfortunately, the move hasn’t been working out well. Mane’s time in Bavaria has been a disaster so far, and he recently erupted in a fit of frustration in the Bayern dressing room, taking a swing at Leroy Sane after the team’s Champions League loss against Manchester City. The incident resulted in Sane getting a cut on his lower lip and Mane being suspended from the squad for Bayern’s next match and fined.
There are broader frustrations for Mane in Munich, such as his form, his role in the team, and the injury struggles that some fear have curbed his talent. Since returning from an inflammation of the fibula head in his right leg, which forced him to miss Senegal’s World Cup campaign in Qatar, Mane has scored 11 times in a Bayern shirt, but all of those came before the injury blow. He has failed to find the net in nine outings for Bayern since his return on February 26 and has seen his starting position in the team under both Nagelsmann and his replacement Thomas Tuchel far from assured. In the most important games, against Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga, and both Paris Saint-Germain and City in the Champions League, he has started among the substitutes.
The injury may have robbed Mane of some trademark pace and left him less committed in one-on-one duels. Reports last month spoke of concern within Bayern’s coaching staff about his fitness levels. It emerged that Mane angrily confronted Nagelsmann about his lack of game time in front of stunned team-mates. Moving from the empathetic Klopp to the more matter-of-fact Nagelsmann has proved to be a difficult adjustment, and Mane had to start from scratch, having been comfortable in his role at Anfield.
Bayern’s hierarchy believed back in the summer that Mane’s intensity and ferocious work rate would boost the likes of Sane, Serge Gnabry, and Kingsley Coman up the backside. However, the competition for places in Bayern’s attack, after Mane was practically guaranteed to start every game on the left-side of Jurgen Klopp’s forward three at Liverpool, has proved overwhelming. Although Mane started off positively enough, scoring goals as part of a centre forward pair in Nagelsmann’s 4-2-2-2 shape, the coach decided to change things around October time, playing Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting as a sole striker and pushing Mane onto the left wing. He was still scoring and creating. A few weeks later, however, he suffered a disruptive injury 20 minutes into a 6-1 win over Werder Bremen, shattering his World Cup dream just a few days before the tournament began.
Bayern expected more from Mane as Lewandowski’s replacement, and the expectation has proven burdensome. Although his goals-per-game ratio and xG have only slightly dropped off from last season at Liverpool, he hasn’t been able to find a confidence-restoring goal, maybe trying a little too hard at times. Nonetheless, the stats show that he has been more accurate with his shooting and is more involved in the build-up to chances than he was at Anfield