Nagelsmann expects Mane's 'special gift' for leadership to aid Bayern in Champions League

·3-min read

Sadio Mane will provide vital Champions League experience with his "special gift for leading the team" despite his quiet demeanour, according to Julian Nagelsmann.

Mane will play his first game in UEFA's flagship club competition for the Bundesliga champions on Wednesday at Inter, where Bayern have a perfect record in Europe (three wins in three games).

The Senegal international will attempt to fill the void left by Robert Lewandowski, who left for Barcelona, and brings crucial experience, having lifted the Champions League with Liverpool in 2019.

Mane has started life in Germany in fine form, scoring three times in five games, and needs one more goal to become just the fourth African player to score 25 or more goals in the Champions League.

While Bayern have shared the goalscoring burden after the forward's arrival from Liverpool, Nagelsmann says Mane will bring more to his side than just goals.

"I expect that he will pass on his experience to other players and live up to his claim to leadership," Nagelsmann told reporters.

"He has a special gift for leading a team – not even as a loud speaker."

Bayern are among the pre-tournament favourites despite crashing out at the quarter-final stage last term, losing 2-1 on aggregate to Villarreal after Samuel Chukwueze's late goal at the Allianz Arena.

While the Bundesliga side have not lifted European football's main prize since 2013, Nagelsmann welcomes the favourites tag as he looks to atone for last season's disappointment.

"Bayern Munich should always be one of the favourites, given their history," he added. "The Champions League is always special, even hearing the anthem. I've never been to the San Siro as a coach.

"There have been many historic games here. I don't know yet whether it will be the same tomorrow. The opening game isn't decisive but we're trying to get off to a good start."

Inter have been somewhat off the pace in Serie A, winning three games and losing twice to sit eighth in the embryonic table following a 3-2 derby disappointment against fierce rivals Milan last time out.

Bayern are also unbeaten in 10 games against Italian opposition in the Champions League and have won all 18 of their group-stage openers since the 2003-04 term.

But Manuel Neuer warned Bayern cannot afford to be complacent, nor underestimate Simone Inzaghi's side amid an underwhelming start to the 2022-23 season.

"It's the start of the Champions league, you can't say that," Neuer responded when asked if Inter were a weakened side from last campaign.

"It's a completely different atmosphere and a chance for Inter to restart. We won't underestimate the opponent.

"We're among the favourites. In the past few years we haven't managed to make it to the end. Bitter defeats like the last one against Villarreal hurt. We have the ambition and the incentive to get very far."