When Sadio Mané was discussing potential photoshoot venues with New Balance to launch his first signature football boots to celebrate his home village of Bambaly in Senegal he suggested the whole crew should go round to his home from home in Merseyside. That's how we found ourselves sat on his couch on a drizzly Monday morning to talk about his journey from Africa to Anfield.

Mané signed with New Balance earlier this year and he quickly restored their faith by scoring in the Champions League Final and captaining his country at the 2018 World Cup. Quick out of the blocks, a trait typical of this man's playing career to date. Now the main man in the New Balance squad, Mané's rising profile has warranted signature treatment from the brand. After wrapping up the shots for the launch of the 'Bambaly' boot he sat down for a chat with SoccerBible...


Sadio, going all the way back to the beginning, and life in Senegal, how would you describe the lifestyle out there?

I was a normal boy, like everyone. I was living with my family, going to school, playing on the street with my friends. It was a simple life! Of course there was a big difference to being at home here in Liverpool. In Africa people do more things together. We live together, we eat together, but I love it here as well and I like how everyone in Liverpool lives so I really love to be here.

What do you remember about growing up when football first came into your life?

Football has always been in my life, since I was born. I was born and I just loved football and it’s never changed up to now. Thank God today I’m in the best league in the world and the best club, so I’m very happy and enjoying life.

Were you obsessed with football when you were a kid?

Yeah of course. I remember still because I lived very far from the capital. I was born in a village, so it wasn't easy for me because I wanted to achieve my dream to become a football player, and at that time my family also didn’t help me, they didn’t want me to play football. They were thinking of something else. But for me my life is football and it’s the only thing I know and it’s the only thing I’d been doing.

Did you get to watch the Premier League in Senegal?

Honestly, most of the time I was watching the French league because at the time I loved Marseille. Marseille was my club. Most of the time I watched the French league but sometimes I watched the Premier League and Champions League as well. Everybody watched it!

What players do you remember watching on the TV?

At that time it was El Hadji Diouf. He was my hero, when he was playing for Liverpool. At the beginning it was El Hadji Diouf then Ronaldinho as well. I only have two heroes in football. Both were great players and I was always watching them when I could. They were both very passionate players. Skilful players who always had a smile on their faces. 

You’ve gone on to play for Liverpool FC as El Hadji Diouf did. Is that a huge childhood dream?

Yeah, I still have some memories of Diouf and he’s not the same type of player as Ronaldinho, but he also had some quality, even though he was fighting all the time! I love the way these guys played football, but generally in life I’m more quiet.


Can you remember when you got your first pair of boots and what that feeling was like? 

I remember my uncle was living in Spain at that time and I was in the village. My first pair of boots was in 2005. At that time in the village I was in school and I was very happy to have new boots and my first ever pair. I also was struggling with the boots because I wasn’t used to playing with them. We used to play in, we call them tictic. But in time I forced myself to play in the boots and I got used to it.

Receiving your first pair of boots, is that something that will stay with you forever? 

Of course, it’s the kind of thing you will never forget in your life. Out of all my friends, I was the only one who had boots. But I couldn’t play with them at first because I struggled to get used to them as I'd never worn them before. 

Can you tell us a bit about how you were discovered as a player, that journey that took you from Senegal to Liverpool?

I was well known in my village because everyone used to say that I played very well and like Ronaldinho, and they even called me Ronaldinho in my village! People came to see me from nearby villages and cities because they had heard my name and they were surprised about how people talked about me. Also, people came from Dakar, the capital. Finally I got to go to the capital and I’d hear how people were talking about me, and they’d come to watch me to try to know me and of course, I was famous!

Tell us a bit about those games in the village, would you score ten goals and take the ball past everyone?

At that time it was very box to box. I can’t say I was one of the best but for me it was easy to pass everyone and to score goals. But there were some other very good players too.

Did your family have to sacrifice quite a lot to get you to where you are now?

Honestly, they never thought I was going to be football player. I understand them because before me the village had some great players and no one had the chance to become a football player. Those people who were very good at football finally lost everything because they gave everything to football and at the end they missed out on the chance to do other things. So, in this case, it’s why my family didn’t want me to follow in the same way. They wanted me to do something else. That’s why they were thinking I was crazy for saying I wanted to be a football player.

They gave me the example of the players who were better than me and today they have nothing because they were following football, football, football until they got old. But I’m very glad that in the end I was able to make it and my family could see that for me it was the right decision to follow my dreams.

For you to get to where you are today is a huge success story. Do you still think it’s a bit of a dream?

Maybe, I always believed but I think I was lucky also. I had luck.


You’ve played for Senegal over 50 times. How much does it mean to you to be able to represent your country and how proud are you of that achievement?

That’s why I became a football player, to play for my country. When I was younger I was watching my national team, and at that time, El Hadji Diouf was there. So for me my only dream was to become a football player and to play for my country. In the end, I know you have to find a club and play there and come back to play for your country. I'm at my proudest when I'm playing for Senegal.

Talk through playing for your country and what it means to you to have worked with New Balance Football to design boots that celebrate that passion?

I’m so proud to have my own specially made boots that celebrate my country Senegal, and I have to say thank you to New Balance here because working with them to design these boots has been a very special thing. The boys at training are always arguing about who’s boots are the best and for me this project proves it, that I have the best ones! I’m very proud to wear them. 

You’ve not been with New Balance Football all that long really, so it’s happened quite quickly for you to be able to make your own boots. Is that something that stood out to you?

For me I was very excited when I was first helping to design the boots but I was saying “can you change this colour, this design, this” but I was very excited to wear them and today I’m very happy to wear this boot and especially with the speed, it’s unbelievable. To strike the ball with them is great too, so for me they’re the best boots. And they’re so light, so it’s great for me.

Can you tell me about how you came to wear New Balance?

I remember the first day, it was my agent who called me. He said “Sadio, New Balance want you to wear their boots" and I thought that’s great. I’m usually someone who only needs three or four pairs to play all season. The Furon boots from New Balance have been great to wear and they felt natural to play in straight away so I was very happy. 

Going to the Premier League, you scored the fastest ever hat trick when you were at Southampton. Do you think that sums up your style of play quite well?

I remember this. I was a struggling a little bit with the league, struggling with goalscoring but I never stopped working hard. Especially when I scored this fastest hat trick. It gave me more motivation, more confidence.

From that moment you became the most expensive African player of all time when you signed for Liverpool. You’re in the history books now. Is the idea of leaving a legacy something that you like?

Honestly, I’m someone who’s not looking too much at this kind of thing. But of course, it’s part of football. But I don’t care too much about this kind of thing. I’m someone who has ambition and who loves what he’s doing and I always want more and I’ll try to give everything to get more and more. 


What’s the experience like when you go back to Senegal now?

Now it’s something crazy because if I go back to Senegal I’m very happy. I can’t go out like before when I was not well known, but I find that it’s normal because of how much people love football in Senegal. I must say I’m very proud because it was my dream, so today to see people show their appreciation is a special thing.

What’s it like if you walk down the street there?

I was in Senegal recently with the national team and at the airport it was almost not possible to get out of my car because of so many people who want pictures and want to say hello to you. In the hotel we have security, but at the stadium it’s just incredible. In the daytime I can’t go on the streets just like this. It’s not possible because many come to see us and the fans are so passionate!

Can you remember the first time you felt famous over there?

Since I first start playing football for my national team. But when I came to England, and when I played for Liverpool, everything changed and people gave me more attention. 

How’s it changed the lives of people around you? Have you been able to help your family and give them a different life almost?

I’m someone who loves his family and I prefer to do things for them than myself sometimes. My family is the most important and I will do everything for them. I have a big family. Africa is different to Europe in this style because I used to live with my family, my uncle, my cousin, my sisters, my mum, we all lived together, and we all share everything together. Every day I call them and if they’re happy then I’m happy, and if they’re not then I’m not happy. 

What does it feel like to score a goal for Senegal compared to scoring a goal for Liverpool?

It depends what kind of goal you score for your country and what kind of goal you score for your club. But I think it’s the same sensation. Sometimes to score a goal for my country is something incredible and the example I give you is the Africa Cup final, I’d love to score this goal. The Champions League final is where you love to score these important goals, so it depends, but a goal is a goal and you love to score for you team to win.

How would you describe yourself, would you say you’re quite a creative person? You seem to like to express yourself with your hairstyles…

Not as much as someone like Firmino or someone like that who has a new hairstyle every single game! No, I’m happy with my hairstyle and will keep it the same.

Have you found someone to cut it over here?

Yeah, this one guy cuts almost every Liverpool player’s hair.

The new boot is named ‘Bambaly’ after your home village – tell us what that place means to you today?

Oh Bambaly! It’s my hometown and it’s my everything. I can say that if I’m here today it’s because of this village, because they gave me everything. I’m looking forward to giving back what they gave me. 

You sent 300 Liverpool shirts over there recently. Is that something that can have a big effect for kids out there?

Yeah of course. Those people love football like crazy. Especially when I’m playing football, no one works! So to do this kind of thing is important for myself and for them, because they loved it so much when they saw the shirts, it was something incredible. They were really happy about it.


Ready for a few quick fire questions?

Let's go...

Which player is the greatest of all time for you?

Ronaldinho. Obviously.

Which player has the best dance moves?



I just like it. Every single goal he does something else, something different and he really enjoys it.

What was the first thing that you bought when you turned pro?

Oh… I’ll have to think about it… I think clothes. I was in France at the time and when I came to France I didn’t bring so much stuff, so when I got my pay I bought some trousers!

What’s the strangest thing about living in Liverpool?

The accent!

What’s the one thing about Senegal that you miss the most?

Being with my family.

What’s the greatest thing about Senegal?

Home. Just staying at home is great.

If you could sit on the sofa all day and you could eat whatever you want all day what would you eat?

Fruit. For me I like this the most, and it’s good for me it’s healthy so I can have anytime!

Sadio, thanks very much. Looking forward to seeing you in the new boots.

Thank you!

All 90 pairs of the limited edition Bamabaly Furon 4.0 boots sold out within minutes, but you can shop the full New Balance boot collection at prodirectsoccer.com