It’s almost been two weeks since Bayern Munich signed Sadio Mané, and I still haven’t gotten over this transfer. Mané is an elite player and would significantly improve our chances of winning pretty much everything. I could hear the disappointed sighs from every single top club across Europe.
Robert Lewandowski’s departure (whenever that materializes) will leave a massive void behind, as one would expect comes with losing the world’s best player. The addition of Sadio Mané to the roster, despite not being a like-for-like option, gives a lot of relief, since the man is a proven game-changer. He’s certainly one of those players who has the ‘X-factor’ about them and is all about the clutch.
Many (including me) want to see Bayern bring in a proper no. 9 in addition to Mané, but the Senegalese attacker is also capable of playing as a speedy target man, something similar to Jamie Vardy at Leicester City, Son Heung-Min at Tottenham, and Kylian Mbappé at PSG. The player is also a superb winger, and one needs to look no further than his tenure at Liverpool to come to that conclusion. Additionally, he can also play as a half-space playmaker, something we’ve seen him do occasionally at Southampton and Liverpool.
So without further ado, let’s take a look at the different roles Mané could play in the roster, and how they might benefit the team.
Mané himself firmly believes that he can excel as a no. 9, and there is very little doubt that he’d be great at the job. Sure, he isn’t a conventional 9, isn’t good in the air, and may not be the best at holding up the ball to bring his teammates into a play, but he sure as hell is quick, a great finisher, and is feared for his ability in 1v1 situations. One through ball would be all it takes for a Sadigoal. Okay, I must stop (but will I?).
Nagelsmann’s high-press is bound to create turnovers and mistimed passes from the opposition that could be exploited. The manager also aims to create numerical advantages in the final third, which could also help draw attention away from Mané, who can make opposing defenses pay. Yes, Mané is no Lewandowski, but he can give us a different dynamic, simplifying the overall game.
Of course, the best-case scenario is Lewandowski staying, because Bayern usually thrives with a tall, physical no. 9 who is proficient at scoring with every part of the body. However, in the event that we don’t retain Lewandowski and don’t sign a proper no. 9 as a replacement (Scamacca, Tel, Kane, Kalajdžić, etc.), Mané as a 9 is a very solid option. Sure, the aerial baggage has to be picked up by players like Müller, Goretzka, and De Ligt (????), but I believe it could work really well.
The no. 9 position seems like the obvious gap Mane should fill since Lewandowski is most probably leaving, and Bayern doesn’t seem to have a replacement lined up. At least not yet.
Bayern has some of the best wing depth in Europe. Leroy Sané, Serge Gnabry, Kingsley Coman, and Jamal Musiala... now that is just overpowering and would make for the world’s best group of wingers if not for injuries and a high degree of inconsistency. Gnabry in particular has been super inconsistent lately to the point of the club actually considering a sale (they ain’t going over that reported 19m offer), while Sané has received flak for his work ethic and a nonchalant attitude that sometimes rears its ugly face on the pitch.
This essentially means that Coman and Musiala would get more minutes, and that might actually be great for the club, since Musiala is a beast on the wings, and Coman is excellent at putting defenders in a trance-like state. That being said, Nagelsmann has always been super willing to rotate players on the wings, meaning Sané and Gnabry continue to enjoy a significant chunk of the wing minutes. Sadio Mané’s entry, however, could change everything.
If Bayern retains Lewandowski or signs a true 9, Mané would most likely play as a winger, which is undoubtedly his most natural position. Since all of Bayern’s wingers barring Musiala are terrible at crossing, Mané would be an instant upgrade. He would also easily bench Gnabry and Sané on current form. I mean, it looks like Davies and Mané are already getting ready to form a deadly partnership, and I’m all for that.
It is quite likely that Gnabry leaves the club this window, which would further strengthen the case for a wing role for Mané. However, as things stand, it seems like Bayern is well covered in this department, and Mané might have to put up a strong, consistent fight to displace the other players.
This is definitely the dark horse of the 3 roles, but one where Mané could thrive equally well — the playmaker role. Well, hear me out first. Thomas Müller can and will never be benched. However, Mané could play as a half-space wing-playmaker hybrid alongside Thomas Müller, exchange positions often, and create havoc in the opposition third.
In essence, he could play Leroy Sané’s role, but in a way that compliments rather than diminishes Müller’s abilities. Mané’s spatial awareness is fantastic and he reads the game really well. His runs, passes, and positional interchanges in the final third could prove quite the handful for opposition defenses, especially when paired with a player like Müller. So in essence, it’d be something like what we occasionally saw with James and Müller under Jupp in 2018.
In this case, Mané would be James if the Colombian were faster, a better shooter, more clutch, and way more weather-resistant. Two playmakers in one attacking setup sure does sound tantalizing, and even more so when you realize that in such a setup, Davies would function as a pseudo winger (when does he not?!!!), bombing in from the left flank and sending in crosses.
And finally, Mané could be a false 9 option at times, taking Müller’s AM role further up the pitch. He’d function like a 2014 Germany Götze, drifting between defenders and getting into goal-scoring situations. He would ideally be supported on the flanks by Sané/Coman and Musiala, and Müller at the 10.
Ideally, he’d switch positions often with the rest of the front line. Fluid attacks are often way more difficult to defend, which is why this could work wonders for the formation and tactics. This also seems right in the center of Nagelsmann-territory, which is why I believe it could work really well.
To summarize, we have the makings of a superb transfer in our hands. Here’s to hoping that Nagelsmann makes full use of Mané’s abilities and figures out the best way to use him, while also combining his abilities with that of his teammates to yield even better product.
Now watch Nags introduce a major plot twist and start Mané at LWB.