Feature: Is Niane the next Mane?

Before the FIFA international break, Ibrahima Niane scored a hat trick for Metz against Lorient to become the leading scorer of the French Ligue 1 with six goals in as many games.

The 21-year old striker is tipped to become the next Senegalese rising talent in Europe. But can he follow the path of Liverpool ace forward Sadio Mane and others to become a superstar?

Senegal has produced a wide range of talents who have graced most top-ranked leagues around the world, leaving an indelible mark and a bucket load of records.

The situation only gets better when these talents are graduates from the country’s most renowned academy; Generation Foot who has trained some of the world most celebrated footballers.

He joins a long sequence of icons the Dakar based Academy has trained. Before him, players like Mane, Papisse Cisse, Ismaila Sarr and even former Cameroon international midfielder Landry N’Guemo had gone through the prestigious institution.  And like these Alumni, the rising sensation is bracing up to become a mercurial forward albeit stiff competition.

Superb Ligue 1 start

Niane has enjoyed a blistering start to the season scoring six goals in six games to achieve a perfect start. He netted a sublime hat trick on matchday six of the championship to top the scoring charts.

About two years ago Niane could barely feature on the score sheet more than trice. Today he has developed into a complete striker. His newfound form has been terrific and Metz seems to be making the most of Africa’s superlative talent.

The Senegal youth international is in his third season in France. In 2017 he made 30 appearances scoring twice with one assist. A year later, his playtime dropped to 21 games although he started in nine of them which helped him net three goals –  one more to than previous campaign.

But the forward has seemingly come of age in the 2020/21 season. Understandably, like other try-and tested Senegalese youngsters who’ve risen to unrivalled fame, Niane is surely keen to establish himself and become a crucial figure in his club’s attacking setup. It may not take so long before he garners interest from other teams.

He is currently among the top ten all-time top scorers of Metz and the fifth Senegalese on the record. Habib Diallo leads the list with 48 goals while Diafra Sakho has a tally of 48. Babacar Gueye (38) and Papiss Demba Cisse (36) complete the chart.

According to Transfermarkt, Niane is settled with 28 goals. He could easily rise to the top of the list if he continues his recent run of form.

But can he emulate Mane?

Niane becoming the next Mane sounds far-fetched, doesn’t it? But he might be a surprise inclusion to the list of potential successors, but the promising youngster is looking forward to putting himself on the same podium.

It’s probable that you may not have heard the name before. But rest assured he is working towards achieving that. Like every other prodigy, the M’Bour native in Senegal is looking forward to becoming the undisputed recipient of his compatriots legacy.

Mane like Niane started his career at the Academie Generation Foot. He made his debut for Metz and struggled to earn first-team opportunities. The narrative isn’t so much different from that of his compatriot. In fact, several Senegalese footballers have a similar story to tell. It will surely take a lot of hard work and groundbreaking form for Niane to achieve such a feat.

Nevertheless, if he keeps such a formidable form, there’s growing optimism he can challenge the Ligue 1 superstars for the Golden Boot in the months ahead.

With 28 goals and three assists in 102 senior appearances across all competitions, it appears the 21-year-old is ready to explode onto the global stage with the Teranga Lions as Aliou Cisse’s Golden Generation uncovers another diamond in the rough.