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Liverpool Echo
Liverpool Echo
Josh Williams

Bayern Munich could have Gerard Houllier to thank for shaping Sadio Mane Liverpool transfer path

Sadio Mane has agreed to join Bayern Munich. In the same week Darwin Nunez was announced by Liverpool as his replacement, the Reds negotiated the sale of the Senegalese international to the champions of Germany.

The 30 year-old will go down in history at Anfield. Having arrived as one of the early pillars of Jurgen Klopp's side, he scored a total of 90 goals in the Premier League while sporting the famous red jersey.

Mane will be fondly remembered by Liverpool supporters, but a move to Bayern has been on cards for him since his emergence as a youngster. In fact, an ex- Reds boss advertently put the wheels in motion around a decade ago.

READ MORE: Jurgen Klopp wanted to punch himself before apologising to Sadio Mane in Liverpool transfer talks

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Gerard Houllier was in charge of Liverpool from 1998 until 2004, winning a whole host of trophies from the UEFA Cup to the FA Cup to the League Cup on two separate occasions.

Once his time on Merseyside came to an end, the Frenchman predominantly focused on scouting - given his expert eye for a player - rather than coaching.

It was under his watch that players such as Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher and Michael Owen were promoted from Liverpool's academy to become established homegrown stars at Anfield.

Houllier knew a player when he saw one. His knack for spotting talent was eventually recognised by Red Bull, who contracted his services in July 2012.

He was appointed as Head of Global Football by the energy drink company, who wanted clubs under their wing to represent offensive football which consisted of direct passing, pressing and counter-attacks.

While scouting the globe for hidden gems at the time, Houllier attended the London 2012 Olympics and spotted a 20 year-old version of Mane playing for Senegal.

The youngster shined on the field. “What I liked straight away was his speed and ability on the ball. It was fantastic for a boy of his age," Houllier said years later. "I had also seen him on French television.

"I quickly discovered that Metz would be willing to sell for financial reasons. Red Bull Salzburg agreed to buy him and we paid £4m. The potential was there, we just had to make sure he was well looked after."

Houllier was instrumental behind Mane's move from Metz to Salzburg and during his time in Austria, the pacey attacker thrived because of his team's proactive and chaotic playing style.

Red Bull are wedded to an aggressive, fast and direct style of play which adequately represents the core values of their energy drink brand.

Their philosophical approach is closely associated with that of Klopp, which offers an insight into why so many players have moved from Red Bull clubs to Merseyside in recent years, including Naby Keita, Takumi Minamino and Ibrahima Konate.

While in Austria, Mane played against Bayern in a friendly. The Bavarian side were coached by none other than Pep Guardiola at the time, yet they suffered a shock defeat by losing 3-0.

Mane scored a goal and registered an assist in the match. Afterwards, Bayern were so impressed they explored the possibility of signing him.

"In January 2014, we had a friendly against Bayern in Salzburg, the coach was then Pep Guardiola and we surprised them with our way of playing," Mane told Sport Bild. "My adviser - Bjorn Bezemer - later informed me that there was contact with Bayern after the match."

Although the German giants didn't end up signing him at the time, they were made aware of his potential after suffering from his unique skill set.

Klopp later brought him to Anfield from Southampton, and the rest is history. Mane was presented with a similar foundation to what he experienced at Salzburg, but he was simply surrounded by better teammates and an elite coach at Liverpool.

Bayern are finally getting their man eight years later and in a strange sort of way, they almost have Gerard Houllier to thank for shaping the course of his career all of those years ago.

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