Sadio Mane: African footballer of the year profile

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AFOTY nominee Sadio Mane

When Sadio Mane scored a 176-second hat-trick as Southampton thrashed Aston Villa in April, he set a Premier League record that could last for decades.

The mark the Senegalese broke belonged to one of the finest finishers to grace England's top flight, Liverpool's Robbie Fowler, set back in 1994.

The treble brought Mane to worldwide attention, bringing suitable acclaim to a Senegal international who has become one of the Premier League's most dangerous players.

The 23-year-old brought a fine goalscoring record when he arrived at St Mary's for US$12m (£10m) in September 2014 from Red Bull Salzburg, where the forward had just won a league and cup double.

But with the Austrian championship a cut or two below the quality of the Premier League, his true pedigree was in doubt.

Not any more.

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AFOTY nominee Sadio Mane

While the hat-trick attracted plenty of headlines, might his display at Chelsea in October - as he scored one and made another in a stunning 3-1 win - have actually been more substantial?

Mane, who can play anywhere in attack - out wide, in the hole and up front if needs be, was man of the match as he helped inflict only Jose Mourinho's seventh ever home defeat as a manager.

Allied with his equaliser at Liverpool, it is one of three goals Mane has scored in 12 league games this season, and also one of four assists.

That's an improvement on his maiden Premier League campaign, when he registered just three assists even if he did go on a run, after Christmas, of nine goals in 19 games.

The West African's total tally of 10 ultimately accounted for nearly a fifth of Southampton's league goals and helped the club qualify for Europe for only the second time since the 1980s.

Sadio Mane in focus
Club: Southampton Age: 23Scored seven goals in 23 caps for Senegal.
Mane was part of the Senegal team at the 2012 Olympic tournament and started every match.In May 2015, Mane set a new Premier League record for the fastest hat-trick after scoring three times in two minutes and 56 seconds in a 6-1 win over Aston Villa.

Mixed with his pace, footwork and direct approach, his form found him linked with a shock move to Manchester United - even if Southampton deny receiving a formal bid from the three-time European champions.

Mane's club career ensured he made the BBC African Footballer of the Year shortlist for the first time, since his 2015 Africa Cup of Nations was one to forget.

Injured just 16 days before the Nations Cup began, it was thought Mane would miss the tournament - but though the livewire was rushed back for the last two games, he could not prevent Senegal's group stage exit.

Why he should win: Piers Edwards, BBC Africa Sport

That Mane should be on Manchester United's radar is no surprise given his array of skills. It's not just his electric speed and superb close control, but also his footballing intelligence - which Southampton manager Ronald Koeman has highlighted.

A coach's dream in that he can play across the forward line, this box of tricks does not just score goals but makes them too - boasting that wonderful ability to both spot the pass and get the weight right too.

Standing 5ft 8in tall, Mane may be slight but he is becoming a Premier League heavyweight, with 12 goals and six assists in his last 31 games.

With the ringing endorsement that he is a player who gets you "out of your seat" from Southampton legend Matt le Tissier, the burgeoning Mane would be a worthy winner of the BBC African Footballer for 2015.

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