Name: Sadio Mané
Weight: 152 pounds
Club: Liverpool (England)
World Cup Appearances: None
Summary: There are big expectations for Senegal’s 26-year-old forward. He leads the country into its first World Cup since 2002 and his coach is already touting him as “one of the best players in the world.”
“He plays for an iconic club in Liverpool, which is one of the best clubs in Europe,” said head coach Aliou Cisse in a press conference. “He has shown he is top-notch with his club and he has something unique.”
It’s a point hard to argue against at the moment. His club team is coming off a miraculous run in the Champions League, where Mané helped lead Liverpool to an unexpected trip to the final. He scored 10 goals during the campaign, making Liverpool the first team in Champions League history to have three players score at least 10 goals. Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino also scored 10 times. Mané was the only player to score in the team’s 3-1 Champions League Final loss to Real Madrid.
Sane has been a star for Liverpool since joining the team in 2016. According to BBC, Mané became the highest-paid African Soccer player in history when signed with Liverpool for £34m. In his first year with the team, he was named Liverpool’s Player of the Year.
He’ll now try to take his club success to the international stage. Mané had just one goal and one assist in five of Senegal’s six World Cup qualifying games. But he scored in both of the country’s opening games in the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations and he just ended a 20-goal season with Liverpool. Mané is a speedster who could be a dangerous threat if Senegal can get him out in space. If Mané can find the scoring touch and wreak havoc on opposing defenses, Senegal has a chance to make it out of the group.
“This squad has more quality in depth compared to the 2002 squad but that 2002 team maybe had more maturity,” said Cisse, who captained the 2002 squad. “The togetherness has to be massive and stronger. Thinking about the national team and the flag and families back home.”
Mané was quiet in Senegal’s 2-1 victory over Poland on Tuesday. His team will face Japan on Sunday at 11 a.m. ET. You can stream live on fuboTV.