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Such has been his form in recent months, it seems impossible to remember that it was only at the tail end of last season that questions were being asked as to whether the best of Sadio Mane in a Liverpool shirt lay in the past.

Mane was dropped to the bench in April amid a lack of goal scoring form and confidence that had even the player himself at a loss for an explanation. There were those who questioned whether 2020-21 was the beginning of a decline for the 29 year old who had been a cornerstone of Liverpool's rise to greatness. Nothing, it would appear, could have been further from the truth.

In reality the signs were always there. Mane averaged almost exactly the same number of expected goals per 90 Premier League minutes (0.45) that he had in the previous three seasons. He was creating as many chances, attempting more take ons with a success rate that did not drop off all that much. The ball just was not finding the net.

It most certainly is now. Through 14 games he has eight goals to his name, a key cog in a Liverpool attack that is back to its devastating best, brushing aside teams for fun. Mane's devastating display at Anfield on Wednesday night convinced Atletico Madrid that the only way they could stop him was to kick him out of the game.

He is back to the force of old. What, if anything, has spurred this revival? The Senegal forward points to a purple patch in the closing weeks of last season as setting the stage for this impressive start to the campaign.

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"I don't think that there is a particular moment [when it all clicked]," Mane tells CBS Sports. "We worked hard in preseason and learned from our mistakes. Now we are enjoying a different time and we hope to keep up to that level.

He adds: "We have been in a situation that was new to all of us. The pandemic changed the whole rhythm and the team was not doing as well as in the previous years. Luckily we ended the season very well and we took that whole spirit into the new season."

He and his teammates are taking nothing for granted on their return to form, however. They are through to the knockout stages of the Champions League – the first team to assure themselves of top spot in their group – and are well positioned in what is shaping up to be a three way tussle for the Premier League title with Chelsea and Manchester City.

"We have to keep working," Mane says. "The season is still long. Especially the [first] Atletico game [where Liverpool were pegged back from two goals up before winning 3-2] was tough and we have to keep our focus. The mood is good and we are keen to win the next games as well."

Mane's return to form has brought with it further milestones, not least his calmly struck goal against Watford that took him to 100 Premier League goals. That it came off an assist from Mohamed Salah -- one of only two other African players to reach triple figures in the English top flight made for an even more special moment. Mane is not one for grandiose celebrations, an afternoon with his close friends when he left Vicarage Road was enough to mark the moment.

However others were more willing to make a fuss about the Premier League centurion. New Balance provided Mane with a personalised version of his Furon v6+ boots, the landmark stitched into them in addition to his insignia. "The boots are a reminder to all the moments I've been through and enjoyed over the last years," he says. "I feel honored to have the boots as a sign of appreciation for what I did and will try to add another piece of history to the boots."

The records continue to flow for Mane, whose goal against Atletico Madrid took him level with Steven Gerrard as the second highest scorer for Liverpool in Champions League history. These records, though, serve a collective rather than personal purpose.

"I am still hungry for more titles. If another milestone number can help me and the team to collect some more silverware I will do everything I can to achieve it."

It is in attack in particular that this Liverpool side seem to have rediscovered the force of old. Whilst their center back corps works its way back to full sharpness -- and Mane is at pains to note how relaxing it is for him and his fellow forwards to know Virgil van Dijk and Joel Matip are ready to mop up behind them -- the attack returned with a bang this season. Of the 47 goals scored in all competitions this season 29 have come from the title winning trident of Salah (15), Mane (eight) and Firmino (six).

Of course it is not just that trio that inspires fear in defenses. Diogo Jota has been an immediate hit since arriving from Wolverhampton Wanderers in the summer of 2020, scoring 13 last season and five already this. From the minute the Portuguese forward joined up with his teammates, Mane felt it was as if he had always belonged at Liverpool.

"We have known each other for a couple of years now and we also know what each player is capable of and enjoy it to the fullest. After Diogo joined us, he adapted our play as if he would have never been anywhere else. [His arrival was a] great win for the team."

If Jota, Firmino, Salah and Mane continue to hit collective and personal heights as they have done early in this season there should be an awful lot more great wins ahead for Liverpool.