Sadio Mané’s meteoric rise from his native Casamance in Liverpool owes a lot to the partnership between the Génération Foot association in Senegal and FC Metz. A sector that launched his career to the top.
First Senegalese to win the Premier League, first Senegalese to exceed the 100 goal mark in the English championship, first Senegalese to score in the Champions League final … Will Sadio Mané also be the first Senegalese to lift a trophy as captain of the Teranga Lions? While they will launch their African Cup on Monday January 10 against Zimbabwe, return to the fabulous fate of the star of Liverpool.
A fugue to break through
Born in Bambali, in a rural community in the south of Casamance, Sadio Mané quickly developed a passion for football. However, his father, a local imam, does not believe in his son’s dream at all. So much so that Sadio Mané will run away to try his luck in Dakar. An abortive attempt which ends with a pact with his mother: he will be able to play football, provided he continues his studies and remains a good Muslim.
At the age of fifteen, he leaves again in the hope of being spotted, this time with the family blessing. In M’bour, 80 km south-east of the capital, a local talent scout spotted Mané who began to participate in the “navetanes”, the neighborhood football championships. He was offered to take tests organized in Dakar.
African Premier League stars
“We organized tests at the Dakar police academy. My collaborator at M’Bour had brought back his four best players. Among them, there was Sadio Mané. I formed two teams with new ones to play a match. I made him play number 10 “, recalls Jules Boucher, then recruiter for the local association Génération Foot, interviewed by France 24.” After fifteen minutes, it was he who had made the biggest impression on me. . I stopped the game. I said to my collaborator: this kid, if he is well supervised, he could become a great player. “
The talent of Sadio Mané immediately jumps out in the eyes of the recruiter: technical ease, speed of execution and sequences, capacity for percussion … In view of these qualities, Jules Boucher, also coach of the first team of Generation Foot, places him on the left side of the attack, a position he still occupies today at Liverpool.
Generation Foot, the gold mine of FC Metz
The Génération Foot association is a pioneer structure in Senegal. At its origin, a man Mady Touré. Reconverted into players’ agents after a football career cut short by injury, he specializes in the detection of African talent. For his first proposal to FC Metz, he strikes hard: the Togolese Emmanuel Adebayor begins his European career with the Garnets. Other talents such as Samba Sow or Dino Djiba will follow.
We are then before the FIFA regulations prohibiting the transfers of minors. When this occurs, the question arises of renewing the partnership between the Génération Foot association and FC Metz. While on the Lorraine side, the historic president Carlo Molinari hands over to Bernard Serin, the decision is made to move up a gear.
“It was therefore necessary to build a real training center on site to keep talents until they were 18. We decided to invest in infrastructure,” said Bernard Serin, president of FC Metz, interviewed by France 24.
On the shores of Lac Rose where Mady Touré finds land, FC Metz brings out of the ground a vast complex to serve as a football academy: a stadium with stands to play the championship, training grounds, a school, a boarding school. The Messin club appoints Olivier Perrin general manager of the project and monitors the progress of the nuggets unearthed on a daily basis.
At the same time, Generation Foot begins the Senegalese professional championship in the third division but quickly climbs the ranks by relying on its young talents. With Sadio Mané in his ranks, he moved up to the second division. If the Senegalese player joined the Metz club at the end of a short season at Generation Foot, the professional team continues its ascent without him: it is now playing in the first division of the championship which it has won twice. .
A regret in Metz
In eastern France, adaptation in Garnets is slow. Physically reduced by a pubalgie dating from the previous season, the new recruit does not immediately spark off for his debut with the U19 and then the reserve of FC Metz. On the other hand, it immediately shines among the pros.
“The potential of Sadio Mané jumped out at us from the minute he set foot in Saint-Symphorien. I remember it perfectly. It was a match against Bastia in January. He eliminated two players in his first one. taking the ball before getting a penalty. It was extraordinary for someone who was making his debut in European professional football. The qualities were there, “recalls Bernard Serin. “He only made 11 or 13 matches with us and yet he was selected for the Olympic team and the Senegal A team!”
Sadio Mané could have made the heyday of FC Metz. However, that year, the club was relegated for the first time in its history to the National. With its status as a professional club in danger and on the verge of bankruptcy, the club must sell in order to survive. He resolves on the last day of the transfer window to part with his Senegalese nugget which is bought 4 million by RB Salzburg. That year, Metz also let Kalidou Koulibaly go, now a Napoli executive and Mané’s partner in the national team.
“It is a regret to have seen him leave so quickly. Like Kalidou Coulibaly. If we had been able to keep them, they could have made the fans happy for a few years,” sighs Bernard Serin.
2012: Sadio Mané and Kalidou Koulibaly descend to National with FC Metz.
2019: ➡ Sadio Mané finishes top scorer in the Premier League, wins the Champions League and is in the CAN final.
Kalidou Koulibaly is voted best defender in Serie A. (The best of football) pic.twitter.com/Dz4uSclrp7
– Génération Foot Academy – Senegal (@GFoot_Senegal) July 18, 2019
In Austria, Sadio Mané continues his ascent. He quickly established himself as an indisputable holder, playing 87 games and scoring 45 goals, including three triplets. He finished the 2013-2014 season as the club’s top scorer with fifteen goals in all competitions. He won the championship twice and discovered the Champions League for the first time.
Southampton was interested in him and so he left to discover the English championship at 23, reputed to be the most demanding in Europe. His good performances are once again noticed, in particular by Jürgen Klopp who claims his arrival in Liverpool.
Thirty-six million euros and the status of an African player – at that time the most expensive in history later, Sadio Mané becomes the third Senegalese to wear the mythical red tunic after Salif Diao and his youthful idol El-Hadji Diouf.
Alongside Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino, he is part of a formidable offensive trident which undermines all the defenses of England and Europe. The titles do not take long to follow: Champions League 2019, World Club 2019 and England Championship 2020.
In selection, Sadio Mané notably carried the Lions of Téranga to the final of the 2019 African Cup of Nations. Author of three goals and an assist in six games, the Reds striker remains silent in the face. to Algeria in the final and lets slip his dreams of a continental coronation. He will console himself all the same with the title of best African player of 2019, ahead of his rivals Mohamed Salah and Riyad Mahrez.
Generation football, the backbone of Senegal
A Senegal that he never forgets. In the Champions League final lost to Real Madrid in 2018, the Liverpool striker donated 300 Reds shirts to his hometown of Bambali. Sadio Mané also financed the extension of the high school in his hometown and regularly goes to Generation football where one of the housing buildings bears his name.
On the side of the Senegalese club and FC Metz, we welcome the success of the partnership which, over the years, has allowed the emergence of Habib Diallo, Ismaïla Sarr (Watford), Habib Diallo (Strasbourg) or Pape Matar Sarr (Tottenham).
Despite the emerging competition from the Dakar Sacré-Cœur (partner of OM) or the Diambars Institute (with OM), Génération Foot remains one step ahead: “Our model has proven itself. We have been twice champions, we played the African Cup. Our academy has a special focus. When we look at the Senegal national team, out of the 10 field players, 5 come from our partnership. This is a lot for visibility and ‘attractiveness of the academy,’ praises Bernard Serin.
“The Génération Foot – FC Metz partnership has made it possible to improve the quality of Senegalese football,” notes Salif Diallo, senior reporter and head of the sports department of the Senegalese Press Agency (APS), joined by France 24. “Generation Foot is the backbone of the selections of Senegal. It is true in this generation but also in the one to come “.
If Senegal lifts its first trophy, the success will largely go to Generation Foot.