Sadio Mane’s Liverpool career is three years old today.
So happy birthday, Sadio Mane’s Liverpool career. Many happy returns.
How fitting would it be, then, if we spent the next 400 words or so drooling over unequivocally one of the finest goals of last season? Go on then.
The average football fan is fairly normalised to the traditional 30-yard thronker. Don’t get me wrong, they’re still satisfying, but like anything the novelty starts to wear off.
(*Disclaimer: Unless, of course, said thronker goes in off the underside of the bar. Then we’re really talking.*)
Just occasionally though we are treated to, and spoiled by, a moment of true ingenuity unlike any other.
Step forward, Sadio.
The stage was set. Liverpool and Bayern Munich were locked at 0-0 after 116 minutes of an enthralling Champions League showdown.
Any normal human being in Virgil van Dijk’s position would probably look to retain and recycle possession. Not much on, was there?
But Virgil van Dijk doesn’t need much on to produce something. That’s just the way Virgil van Dijk operates.
The Dutch colossus spotted Mane galloping in behind Rafinha down Bayern’s right and raked a 60-yard pass.
What followed was breathtaking.
Mane, straining his neck with the ball behind and above him, controlled it instantly with the outside of his right foot to take him away from Rafinha.
Manuel Neuer, being Manuel Neuer, was already on the scene and alert to the danger.
Only the pioneering German great was reduced to a helplessly bemused bystander when typically he is so clinical in these scenarios.
Mane twisted Neuer out, dropping the shoulder to turn to his right, never once pausing to catch his bearings.
Then, because he’s not a tragic wee boy, Mane had not only the impudence but also the stones to execute the deftest of left-foot chips to ensure the despairing Bayern players couldn’t get close.
In just four touches Mane and Van Dijk completed football.
Because this was a new type of goal, a unique product never seen before.
I’ve watched it again, and again, and again, and again and I’m still not remotely bored of it. Bask in its glory.
Not only is it mesmeric, it also proved a pivotal, clutch moment on Liverpool’s journey to becoming European champions again.
Mane wheeled away with a trademark smile and knee slide as the Reds delivered a real statement of intent. Beating Bayern in Munich showed they meant business.
Mo Salah might be Liverpool’s Egyptian King, but Sadio is their Mane man.
He is Mr Reliable in the Champions League having scored more knockout stage goals than anyone else in the last two seasons.
Not bad for a player who has had accusations of inconsistency thrown at him.
There was nothing erratic about this, only seamless perfection.
Not many players would even contemplate it let alone pull it off, but Mane is so unpredictable, so quixotic, that he made it look like meat and drink.
A stunning work of art worthy of gracing any stage.
Check out some of our latest features