It’s fair to say that Bayern Munich’s signing of Sadio Mané in the summer has not been the massive success that it had been hoped for. Criticism earlier in the season was put down to a settling in period, but another below-par performance against Bayer Leverkusen at the weekend has put a renewed spotlight on the Senegalese forward with further doubts being raised as to his suitability at Bayern.
Having missed the World Cup in Qatar through injury Mané has been declared fit by Bayern and after substitute appearances against Union Berlin and VfB Stuttgart, he was a starter once more against Augsburg and Leverkusen. He did provide two assists in the 5-3 win over the Fuggerstädter, but was taken off at half-time in the 2-1 defeat to the Werkself having had just nine touches of the ball and looking decidedly rusty.
Was this down to feeling his way back after injury, or is there more to it? Could it be that Mané is still struggling to find his place at Bayern and it being a case of a round peg in a square hole?
There will be plenty who say that the attacker should be given time and that writing off a player who achieved so much success under Jürgen Klopp at Liverpool is premature. Mané will come good they say.
There will be others however who insist that Bayern thought they were buying the ‘finished article’ and there is little time to be given- they expect him deliver right now.
The problem goes right back to when Mané arrived at the club and the initial confusion as to why Bayern were buying him. The departure of talisman Robert Lewandowski left a huge hole in the Bayern attack and while not exactly a ‘panic buy’, Mané’s arrival was not planned with the long-term thinking that the likes of Leroy Sané, Leon Goretzka or Dayot Upamecano were.
Was Mané going to be a out-and-out replacement for Lewandowski as a central striker or would Bayern accommodate him in the position he was familiar with at Liverpool as a wide left player with the license to cut inside? The fact that his initial months at the club didn’t really answer this question led to criticism of his performances.
The fact that those criticisms are still being voiced indicate that Bayern haven’t found the answer to the Sadio Mané conundrum. The player clearly has to adapt to Bayern rather than Bayern adapting to him, but the fact that that hasn’t happened fully yet will be a concern to the Bavarian hierarchy. With Mathys Tel itching to be given more game time, the pressure is mounting on Mané to fully deliver on the €32 million Bayern splashed out to sign him.
Some say Mané was a gamble for Bayern, taken in haste following Lewandowski’s flight to Barcelona. Has it been a gamble that hasn’t paid off? Or is patience the name of game in the long-term?