Editor’s Column: Let’s not sleep on world-class Sadio Mane

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Sadio Mane has been Liverpool’s most decisive player this calendar year – in which Jurgen Klopp’s side have built up the momentum during a winning run that puts us well in contention for English football’s first ever quadruple.

Mane has been our best attacker. The Senegalese has nine goals for Liverpool in that time (making it 18 for the season). During this time, he also won the African Cup of Nations with (and pretty much for) Senegal, and fired them into the World Cup later this year via victory in the Play-Offs.

What a 2022 our 30-year-old is having. It’s been practically faultless.

His goals since the turn of the New Year have been against the big sides or match-defining ones against the also-rans. He’s hit the net against Chelsea and three times versus Manchester City. He bagged in the Champions League quarterfinal and notched a wonderful overhead-kick in the comeback win over Norwich. It’s an Americanism, but he’s been a true clutch performer for the Reds in what is already one of the greatest seasons of any generation.

What’s more impressive about Mane’s form is that he’s often been forced into a new position in recent months due to the January signing of Luis Diaz. The Colombian rightly deserves minutes on the left-wing, his natural spot, but Mane hasn’t complained; instead adapting brilliantly to a central role.

In seven starts as Liverpool’s centre-forward, Mane has six goals. He’s basically going at a goal-a-game in a new position. It proves his brilliance, but his performances recently are not getting the attention they deserve – from Reds or the football-world in general.

Mane is world-class. He’s one of our best players and deserves to be lauded in the same manner in which Mo Salah was rightfully worshipped before Christmas during his own stunning run. Now the Egyptian’s goals have dried up (he was still mighty important yesterday), the talk seems to be on Salah and not the player who’s scoring in his stead. Providing Liverpool are still winning – and we haven’t lost a meaningful game in 2022 – what does it matter which superstar is finding the back of the net?

At his best, Mane is ferocious, skilful, fast, physical and tricky. And we saw all of those traits at Wembley. His tenacity to press Zac Steffen for his first goal was incredible, as was his purposefully sliced finish to put us 3-0 up.

Thankfully, Mane celebrated that effort, unlike his past few goals against Benfica and City in the Premier League fixture – in which he simply walked back to the halfway line. The likelihood is that he was not committing to a celebration due to an upcoming VAR check for offside, but his lack of reaction still made a few Reds worry Mane was unhappy about something.

The full-blooded reaction to his wondergoal at Wembley, and the level of his performance, shows that if anything was bothering Mane, it isn’t affecting his contributions.

For months, papers have spoken relentlessly about Salah’s contract renewal. The Liverpool no.11’s current deal expires in 2023, meaning he’ll be available for clubs in Europe to approach on a Bosman transfer in eight months’ time. This is worrying, but the suggestion is that the club and Salah’s representatives are close to an agreement.

There is no such suggestion regarding Mane’s contract situation – or even a hint that the various parties are in discussions. Mane’s contract also expires in 2023, remember – as does Roberto Firmino’s.

Online, there has been a verging-on-disrespectful tone when debating the club’s possible options.

‘Give Mo a deal. Sell Mane. Let Bobby run his deal down.’

‘Can’t lose Salah. Let’s cash in on Sadio instead…’ 

Liverpool without Mane – even a Sadio Mane in his thirties – would be a significantly weaker beast – even with the Diaz addition. We should remember this and more importantly, recognise his offering.

Last weekend at the Etihad, Mane dragged us back into the game. We’d be out of the Premier League title-race without his individual second-half performance. He notched a brace against the same opponent in the FA Cup semi-final, making it double-figures for goals v City. No other player comes close to that record during Mane’s era.

Liverpool obviously have to make succession plans for Mane, Salah and Firmino. They won’t be with us forever – but much like the Chicago Bulls in 1998 – there’s feeling that it’s too soon to break up the best triumvirate in our history. Bobby has a different role now. He’s great at coming off the bench and changing a game’s dynamic. Mane and Salah can have their minutes handled differently too, with Diogo Jota and Diaz in contention every week, too. But talk of offloading Mane this summer, or even at the end of his deal next season, might be premature.

As a centre-forward, Mane can get away with slightly less blistering pace, which naturally diminishes with age. In this new position, especially with Diaz providing genius on the left, the rebooted Mane can effectively go again.

Our strongest lineup now involves a Diaz-Mane-Salah trio, which is saying something considering Jota has 21 goals this season. Klopp will rightly rotate before the end of May, but don’t be surprised to see Mane, in whatever position he’s asked to play, showing us why he’s one of the club’s best ever players again.

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  1. Mane deserves recognition for all his efforts. He’s so far never disappointed. Calm, humble, a great sportsman and team player.

  2. Spot on. Mane in contention for world player of the year, probably ahead of Mo given African Nations glory.

  3. Mane is the strongest fittest player on any football field in the world. Mo gets so many goals because of the space Mane creates by forcing defenses to mark him constantly even though they would prefer to concentrate on Mo. It just wouldn’t be Liverpool without him. Man’s the best player year in year out for Liverpool and doesn’t break down. New contract please.

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