Sadio Mane is already off to a flying start at Bayern Munich. He scored on his preseason debut against DC United, the DFL-Supercup win over RB Leipzig, and the Bundesliga opener against Eintracht Frankfurt, which Bayern won 6-1 at Deutsche Bank Park. Julian Nagelsmann’s attack does not appear to be suffering a goals drought despite losing talisman Robert Lewandowski to Barcelona this summer, though it is still early days. Mane’s been at the forefront of what’s looked to be a very fluid attacking line for Bayern without a natural, number 9 striker.
Mane’s performances in a Bayern shirt thus far are (hopefully) a sign of what’s to come over the course of this season and beyond. At this rate, he’s on pace for a 30-goal season in the Bundesliga, but Bayern will, of course, eventually run into road blocks. However, former Nigeria striker Efan Ekoku recently said that he fully believes Mane will go on to be incredibly successful at Bayern. “I think that as a top-class player and professional, he will succeed at Bayern for sure. He’s made a good choice. If you’re going to leave a big club like Liverpool and if you are still at the peak of your powers, then you’ve got to choose wisely,” Ekoku recently told BBC Sport.
While Ekoku didn’t refer to the Bundesliga as a “farmer’s league” as it’s often branded by non-Bundesliga fans or max remarks about a “Bundesliga tax,” he did say that he feels the league offers a platform to be even more successful than he was at Liverpool in the Premier League. “Mane has done and gone to a club as storied as Liverpool, over the last 40 to 50 years, in Bayern. The chances of him being successful in the Bundesliga with Bayern are just as great, if not more so,” he explained.
While he’s not a direct replacement for Lewandowski in terms of the exact position they play and their strongest attributes, Mane has played as Bayern’s most advanced player in their opening two competitive fixtures. He was also bought with the idea that he would be scoring at least as many goals as he did at Liverpool playing in their prolific attacking line, and often being used as a center forward by Jurgen Klopp, especially during periods when both Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino were unavailable for selection. On that evidence, Ekoku doesn’t feel that Mane will struggle to be as productive at Bayern. “If Mane can hit 18-20 goals in the league and 25-plus in all competitions over the last four or five years for Liverpool, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be hitting those figures in the Bundesliga. It’d be tough as it’ll take him a while to adjust. I think he should acclimatize pretty well. Mane is a competitor, he’s a real warrior. I’ve got no doubts about him,” he said.
Bayern’s attack without Lewandowski has looked fluid thus far with the amount of players that are able to produce threatening moments. RB Leipzig manager Domenico Tedesco likened Bayern’s attack to having arrows come at you from multiple directions and Julian Nagelsmann has said is much more difficult to contain four or five players constantly running at you than it is to cover one or two target men in the box when crosses are whipped in. It’s a far different dynamic than just having one, lone target man for a striker.
With Bayern’s new-look fluidity up front, Ekoku feels that Mane is the perfect type of player for what Nagelsmann wants. “I think Julian Nagelsmann is looking for a different type of Bayern attack anyway. We all saw what he did at RB Leipzig. And so it’s probably building smaller mobile forwards and having players like Mane, and [Serge] Gnabry and [Leroy] Sane, who will be interchangeable. I think that’s the way that Bayern will play moving forward. If you want to get a younger version of Lewandowski right now, nobody can say who exactly who that is. They’re looking to the future and Mane is a few years younger than Lewandowski so there’ll be a slightly more fluid Bayern attack - and Mane, style-wise, fits perfectly,” he explained.