There were numerous doubters amongst the footballing world about Southampton this season.
After losing a host of big name stars that were influential in their fantastic eighth placed Premier League finish last season, the Saints were one of the favourites to be relegated when the 2014/2015 campaign began. Replacing players like Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana, Luke Shaw, Calum Chambers, Dejan Lovren and manager Mauricio Pochettino, Southampton looked like they had a mountain to climb.
This has not proved to be the case thus far. New gaffer Ronald Koema, has arrived and rejuvenated a beleaguered Southampton side, who only five years ago were lying in 22nd place in League One. The former Feyenoord coach has also made some very shrewd signings in order to replace the key players that got them back into England’s top flight.
The stand out players has been Italian target man Graziano Pelle and winger Dusan Tadic, both of whom were signed from Koeman’s native Netherlands. Other new recruits such as goalkeeper Fraser Forster, left back Ryan Bertrand and striker Shane Long resulted in the South Coast club spending an astonishing £57.9m after generating players’ sales just short of the £100m mark.
One rising star that cost a hefty £10m is winger Sadio Mane. Questions were immediately asked about the wisdom of the St. Mary’s outfit spending that amount of money on a 21-year-old coming from Red Bull Salzburg and the less competitive Austrian league.
However, Mane is already starting to justify his £10m price tag, making a significant contribution in the 2-1 Capital One Cup win away at Arsenal, as well as notching two domestic goals already, in the 8-0 thrashing of Sunderland and the narrow 1-0 against Stoke City.
So who is Sadio Mane?
The Senegalese midfielder started his footballing life with French side FC Metz, and in the 2011/2012 season scored two goals in 22 appearances. This prompted a move to Austria, moving to Red Bull Salzburg for £4m, the third biggest transfer fee FC Metz had received.
His time in Austria just showed why Koeman was eager to snap him up immediately. In 63 games, Mane scored an eye-catching 31 goals. While playing in the Austrian league, Mane was also testing himself across Europe in the Europa League. This showed that the tricky winger loves to take on defenders, completing 38 successful dribbles in the competition, more than any other player in the Europa League last season.
The Austrian Bundesliga and Austrian Cup winner also had the privilege of representing his country at the 2012 Olympics in London. Making four appearances for Senegal, Mane helped his team qualify out of the group, finishing above Uruguay, before being knocked out in the quarter finals by eventual winners Mexico.
His impressive goal record and young age is the main reason why Southampton signed him when they had the chance. On this basis, considering the impressive start the Saints have made, Mane could become a top class winger in the Premier League.