SINGAPORE — The Brazil national football team may be loaded with top-class players such as Neymar, Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino, but when they take to the National Stadium for their international friendly against Senegal on Thursday (10 October), arguably the best player on the pitch is on the African side.
Since the start of the year, Sadio Mane has been in scintillating form for both club and country. As part of Liverpool’s fearsome strike trio, the 27-year-old has scored 24 goals for the current leaders of the English Premier League (EPL), finishing as joint top scorer of the last EPL season with teammate Mohamed Salah and Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
More impressively, he has maintained his scoring touch even though he had little off-season time to rest, after spearheading his Senegal national side to a runner-up spot in the African Cup of Nations in July, and scoring twice in the month-long tournament.
But perhaps the biggest validation of his brilliance came from none other than Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi, who cast his vote for the best player in the world to none other than Mane during the recent Fifa awards.
Remaining humble and working hard
When Yahoo News Singapore asked Mane during the Senegal media conference at Swissotel The Stamford on Wednesday the reasons for his dramatic upturn in form this year, he chuckled and said, “First and foremost, I’m glad that what I put my heart and soul into, has produced great results for both Liverpool and Senegal.
“I’m grateful for that, but I have to remain humble and work hard every single day.”
It is this work ethic and unassuming attitude that has endeared him to the huge global fan base of Liverpool. When he arrived in Singapore on Tuesday, Reds fans serenaded him with his famous chant “Sadio, oh Mane Mane” to the tune of The Archies’ Sugar Sugar, and swarmed to take wefies with the Senegalese star.
And, despite Messi’s endorsement at the Fifa awards, Mane insists he will not become complacent.
“It’s a nice compliment (from Messi), I really appreciate that. But the important thing for me is to never give up, to keep on trying my best every day,” he said.
Scoring against his Brazilian club mates
While he remains modest about his achievements, the competitive fire remains strong. While Thursday’s friendly may be inconsequential to both nations, Mane is still keen to score in Senegal’s first-ever match against five-time World Cup winners Brazil – and earn bragging rights over his Liverpool club mates Firmino and Fabinho.
“Yes, it is true I have joked with them saying I will score against them in Singapore, and we will win 4-0,” he said with a wide grin. “But every footballer must dream of scoring against Brazil, and I’m no different. If I can help Senegal beat Brazil, then it will be a very big thing for my country.”
Tickets for the two friendlies are available on the Sports Hub website.