Liverpool‘s front three have always stayed hot on each others’ heels, pushing one another to be even better, but Sadio Mane must feel like the odd one out in the tight-knit trio when it comes to finals.
Roberto Firmino has his Club World Cup clinching goal, while Mohamed Salah bagged his final-defining moment with his two-minute penalty in the 2019 Champions League final.
Meanwhile, the closest Mane has come to a spotlight moment was his leveller in Kyiv in 2018, which after finishing in defeat probably leaves a bitter taste.
Two thirds of Jurgen Klopp‘s original attacking trio have their crowning glory moments, so could Paris finally be Mane’s chance to snatch his?
Mane has been pivotal in helping Liverpool navigate their route through to the Champions League final and FA and Carabao Cup success as well as putting a remarkable charge together to cut Manchester City’s lead in the Premier League from 14 to one point.
The Senegalese may be off the pace set by team-mate and Golden Boot winner Salah in the league this season, but he has made up for it in the Reds’ cup competitions.
Sadio Mane is still waiting for a final-winning goal with Liverpool ahead of this week’s final
Roberto Firmino (left)and Mohamed Salah (right) have both scored in the Reds’ final victories
Mane was crucial in Liverpool’s FA Cup quest as he slotted home twice in their 3-2 semi-final to knock City out of the competition and set up their second Wembley showdown of the season with Chelsea.
After Ibrahima Konate’s early opener the Reds cruised to a 3-0 lead heading into the break after Mane netted in the 17th minute before adding Liverpool’s third just before half time.
He came close to clinching his winning moment in the final when the clash once again headed to a penalty shootout.
Mane stepped up to the spot with the chance to net the winning penalty after Cesar Azpilicueta had missed the Blues’ second, but he agonisingly missed to send it to sudden death.
Mane had the chance to clinch his moment in the FA Cup final but missed his penalty
In addition to his two goals in the Reds’ FA Cup run, Mane has scored 21 goals across all competitions this term – five coming in 12 Champions League games.
Admittedly, the forward’s form wasn’t anything of note in the first half of the season but he flipped the switch after the Africa Cup of Nations.
£50million January arrival Luis Diaz was vital to keeping Liverpool afloat during Mane and Salah’s international absences but it is undeniable that the former has hit the same electric levels as the Colombian since returning.
Mane beat his Egyptian team-mate in the AFCON final and has arguably shown him up since returning.
The Senegalese beat his Egyptian team-mate in the Africa Cup of National final this year
Prior to international success, he had bagged 10 goals in 26 matches with a 14.3 per cent shot conversion rate. Such a return equated to a goal every 205 minutes.
But with the AFCON prize under his belt he has banged in 13 goals in 24 appearances.
Mane was also crucial in sealing Liverpool’s passage to their third Champions League final in five years.
He netted in both legs of the Reds’ semi-final against Villarreal, most critically in the second leg to halt the Yellow Submariners’ comeback.
Since his international success with Senegal the 30-year-old has kicked on back at Anfield
Two first-half goals from Unai Emery’s side in the second leg swiftly turned what should have a been a routine result for Liverpool into a tense nail-biter.
But goals from Fabinho and Luis Diaz restored the Reds’ comfortable two-goal cushion before Mane sealed the win in the 74th minute.
His excellent form throughout the second half of the season and his recent cup heroics points to Mane being in prime position to wrap up the Reds’ Champions League campaign in style.
The Paris showstopper is a repeat of the 2018 final when Liverpool suffered a 3-1 defeat to Real Madrid in Kyiv.
While Salah has openly admitted he views Saturday’s battle as a chance for revenge, Mane has taken a calmer approach.
Mane scored in both legs of Liverpool’s Champions League semi-final against Villarreal
He added: ‘For me, it’s not revenge, for sure it’s not revenge. Four years in between, a lot of things have changed – the way we deal with games, experience, we have more quality in the team, so it’s an exciting game.
‘We all forgot about what happened in 2018. For sure Real Madrid were the better team and fully deserved to win the final, and congratulations, but it’s going to be a different game.
‘There’s no pressure, nothing, at all. Just to enjoy. It’s a dream moment for us so let’s enjoy it without making pressure for ourselves because it doesn’t help… everybody is fully confident, which is amazing.’
He may claim that he is not gunning for revenge but he will certainly be wanting to repeat his threat in front of goal by scoring against Madrid again but this time he will be hoping it is the winning strike.
Mane insisted he is not out for revenge on Saturday when the Reds face Real Madrid again
However, after his impressive run in to the end of the season, the Anfield faithful will be praying it isn’t his parting gift to them.
Salah’s contract saga has dominated headlines throughout the season but in recent weeks Mane’s has come to the forefront.
As Salah’s touch in front of goal has deserted him, Mane has become more important than ever.
Similarly to Salah, his contract expires at the end of next season and he revealed he will make a decision on his future following the final.
Mane revealed he will announce his Liverpool future after the final in Paris on Saturday
He said: ‘For sure it will be special to win it, and make it seven (European titles for the club). And this question (my future) I will answer after the Champions League. Stay or not – I’ll answer after the Champions League’.
Earlier this month, Mane emerged as a transfer target for Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain, leaving Liverpool fans unsurprisingly upset.
Reds legend Jamie Carragher led the reaction to the rumours, claiming he wouldn’t let Mane leave Anfield.
‘When I have watched Liverpool as a fan, Sadio Mane is my favourite player,’ he told Sky Sports. ‘There is just something about Mane. He’s sacrificed himself at times and the shift he puts in.
Mane jumps up in the air during Friday’s training session at the Stade de France in Paris
‘He, along with Salah, has been doing that for five years – they are never injured! They are there week in, week out for 90 minutes, getting the numbers up there every week. What they have done for this football club is unbelievable.
‘I’m a huge fan of Sadio Mane and I can assure you he will be going nowhere because I will not let him go to Bayern Munich, he’d have me to deal with!’
Either way, stay or go, a final-clinching goal would be a fitting tribute – for an emotional goodbye or a commitment to the club.