The honeymoon will wait. Senegalese striker Sadio Mané, who got married on Sunday January 7 in Dakar, should put on his boots again to face the Niger national team on Monday evening January 8. A gala match in the form of a warm-up for the player from Al-Nassr (Saudi Arabia) and vice-captain of the Teranga Lions, less than a week before the opening of the African Cup of Nations ( CAN), on January 13, in Ivory Coast.

At 31, will Sadio Mané be as decisive on the Ivorian pitches as he was in 2022 in Cameroon, when his team won the first CAN in its history? The Casamance native, then a player at Liverpool (England), was voted best player in the competition. Two years later in Ivory Coast, Senegal will again rely on Sadio Mané to help them retain their title. After a complicated 2022-2023 season with Bayern Munich, which he joined in July 2022, the player seems to have regained the level he was at in Cameroon.

“We obviously cannot compare the Saudi championship, the German Bundesliga or the English Premier League. But from what he has shown recently, and in particular during his last matches with the national team, we could see that he was in good shape, that his influence is still as great in the game of his team,” notes Malick. Daf, coach of the African champion under-20 team in March 2023 in Egypt and now coach of ASC Jaraaf Dakar, the most successful club in Senegal.

“Unquestionably leader of the selection”

Nicolas Dupuis, the French coach of South Sudan, can attest to this. On November 18, on the first day of qualifying for the 2026 World Cup (group B) in Diamniadio, his team was largely beaten by the African champions (0-4). Repositioned by his coach in a more central role, Sadio Mané scored his 39th and 40th goals with the Teranga Lions during this match, and celebrated his 100th selection. “He is undoubtedly the real leader of this selection,” assures Nicolas Dupuis. Even against a modest opponent like South Sudan, he was very involved, played at his level and his state of mind is impeccable. Senegal is better when he is there. »

The Al-Nassr striker, who will play his fifth consecutive CAN final phase in Ivory Coast, has visibly turned the page on his 2022-2023 season, marked by a knee injury which had prevented him from participating at the World Cup in Qatar and a mixed experience at Bayern Munich. “He signed for a club in Saudi Arabia where they wanted him,” continues Malick Daf. He is in good shape and this is excellent news for Senegal. »

Since the start of the season, the former Liverpool player has scored 7 goals and provided 5 assists in all competitions with his new club. With his selection, the striker has scored five goals in his last five matches, including two doubles, against South Sudan and Brazil (4-2) on June 20, in Lisbon.


The results of the Lions of Teranga since the arrival of Aliou Cissé in February 2015 depend in part on the performance of Sadio Mané. “Sadio is well surrounded, notably by Edouard Mendy, Kalidou Koulibaly, Idrissa Gueye and Cheikh Kouyaté,” explains former defender Ferdinand Coly, CAN finalist in 2002. That said, we can talk about Mané-dependence. This obviously makes us wonder about the future, because there is a time when Sadio will end his career and we will have to do without him. »

The striker, who will be 32 next April, has never given any indication as to his future in the national team. But we can assume that he plans to play the CAN 2025 in Morocco, provided that Senegal qualifies, and the 2026 World Cup. “If he is spared from injuries, there is no reason why “he stops sooner, especially since he is viscerally attached to his country and the selection,” continues Ferdinand Coly. Physically, he plays in a less demanding championship than the English Premier League or the German Bundesliga, where there is less pressure, and this can favor his longevity, because he is like everyone else, he is getting older, and we can no longer ask him to do the same shopping as two or three years ago. »

In the medium term, Senegal will have to learn to do without Sadio Mané. “There are very promising young players, like Pape Matar Sarr (Tottenham, England) or Lamine Camara (FC Metz). Aliou Cissé has already started to prepare for the future, and whoever replaces him one day will make his own choices. Sadio Mané can still provide many services to the selection,” concludes Malick Daf. So much so that ASC coach Jaraaf Dakar believes that it is even stronger than in 2022 and must be considered the main favorite for the Ivorian CAN.