Mane's smile is a motivation booster for struggling Bayern
Liverpool's Sadio Mane (R) competes during the UEFA Champions League final match between two British teams Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur in Madrid, Spain, on June 1, 2019. Liverpool won 2-0 and claimed the champion. (Xinhua/Guo Qiuda)
Berlin, 27 January (2023) - It might have been the explicit intention of Sadio Mane to let pictures send out a convincing message of hope.
After all, not only the photographers at Bayern Munich's training ground seemed pleased to see the 30-year-old Senegal star back in action.
With temperatures around the freezing point, two months after his leg injury, the striker delivered the expected pictures containing hope and determination.
His message seemed striking to everyone: The race to make it back for the delicate last 16 duels in the Champions League against Paris Saint-Germain on February 14 and March 8 has started.
Constantly smiling, the former Liverpool star carried out his running session persisting in the low temperatures in the winterly Bavarian atmosphere.
Without wearing a warming beanie, he had his tracksuit bottoms rolled up as if it was a pleasantly sunny springtime day.
Leaving the locker room, Mane enthusiastically spread his arms, looked up to the sky, and seemed to welcome the cold air and snowflakes.
"Holidays have been long for me, and I can't wait to be back to the full action," the 2019 Champions League winner said after he had missed several club games as well as the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
Mane's comeback just in time, at least for a moment, seemed to improve the mood of a club suffering from internal unrest after a poor re-start after the winter break, coming along with additional unrest after the loss of keeper Manuel Neuer and several cases of indiscipline.
Coach Julian Nagelsmann called it a tight race to make it back for the first leg against Paris, but the ray of hope seems to affect everyone on Bayern's training pitch.
While Mane still needs to travel a bumpy road to attend full team training, several team members came to express their relief about his return.
"We will not take any risk, but count on small steps of recovery," Bayern sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic said.
Mane himself has set the frame points and spoke of three weeks until re-joining the competitive squad for a game.
For now, the goal for Africa's 2022 footballer of the year is to be back for the delicate encounter against Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi "if things go perfectly," as coach Nagelsmann put it.
The running session only took around 20 minutes, but Mane's enjoyment couldn't have been greater. Lonely recovery training sessions were a thing of the past suddenly.
Nagelsmann praised Mane's progress and said: "He is doing faster than we all expected. He might make it, but for now, we are happy to see him around in a good mood."
The Bayern coach spoke of "us giving him all the time he needs and avoiding any pressure."
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