It will take something very significant for Sadio Mane to stay at Liverpool, now.
That means the Reds will be starting next season without the attacker who’s been our best player since Christmas.
This is a big deal. The last time we lost the footballer who could arguably be considered our best was when Coutinho was sold to Barcelona. In reality, Mane and Mo Salah were already his superiors and we got £142m for Phil, which was then reinvested brilliantly straight back into the side.
The issue with Mane’s exit is that it won’t finance a revamp. If we get anything close to £50m for a player in his thirties with one-year left on his contract and no intention of staying, we’d have pulled off a masterstroke. In reality, the £30m-£35m we can hope for Mane’s signature now won’t get us close to a player his level.
After all, we’re talking about a footballer who if things had gone differently on Saturday night and Thibaut Courtois hadn’t put in one of the all-time great Champions League goalkeeping performances, would be the favourite for this year’s Ballon d’Or.
While Liverpool fans spent a season yearning for Salah to extend his deal, Mane was left feeling a little unloved. The club decided to speak with Mo on countless occasion but were happier to wait until this summer to thrash out a deal with the Senegalese. It looks to have cost us, with Mane now deciding he wants a new adventure and much more money.
We’ll have to forgive him for his rather odd phrasing when asked about his future last week…
“But come back to me on Saturday and I will give you the best answer you want to hear, for sure. It’s special. I will give you all you want to hear then,” he said, which intimated he was about to announce a contract extension…
We’ll have to assume he didn’t mean to be so deliberately misleading now it’s come out that this special announcement is his hoping for an exit.
Now, while Mane is playing his own games, Salah’s agent Ramy Abbas is playing tricks again, too.
In an attempt to pressurise the club into doing business at the lofty terms he is demanding, Abbas has leaked to the Athletic that Salah would prefer to stay in the Premier League if he were to leave on a Bosman at the end of this season. Can you imagine the Egyptian lining up for Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, Chelsea, or even, Newcastle? It would leave Reds feeling numb and our team in a far, far weaker comparative position. After all, Salah has three Golden Boots in five full Anfield seasons. He’s the best goalscorer in the country and he might well be about to begin his final year with us.
Smartly, Liverpool signed Luis Diaz in January and the Colombian is the effective Mane of the past five years replacement. Diaz plays on the left, and only the left – so going forward – this is his spot. We now need to invest in a centre-forward, although Diogo Jota, scorer of 21 goals last season, might argue the central role is now rightly his, while Roberto Firmino has declared he wants to stay.
Well, at least one of the famous front-three has his heart set on an Anfield future. Good old Bobby, eh?
Reports from Germany have suggested Mane’s first request at a new Liverpool deal was at £393k/week. You’d have to assume Salah’s was even higher, although it looks like the club and the Egyptian King are miles apart in terms of a number, given that Salah’s agents told James Pearce Liverpool’s offer is only a 15% increase on his current £200k/week terms, effectively £230k/week.
If both Salah and Mane want close to £400k/week, and Liverpool’s current offer to Mo is £170k/week less than that, fans should probably start bracing themselves for the departure, this year and next, of two of the best attackers in the club’s history.
Liverpool have built towards greatness by smartly acquiring players with enormous potential and then guiding them into superstardom. The problem is that superstardom usually requires superstardom wages; and now FSG, Julian Ward and the powers that be are in a position where they do not want to break the structure that has got us to where it has.
From the players’ point of view of course, you can understand where they’re coming from. Why should Salah sign a deal that sees him earn £70k/week LESS than Jack Grealish’s £300k/week, given their respective contributions at Liverpool and Manchester City?
The issue now is a tough one. If we stick to the game-plan, sporting director Julian Ward has to go out and repeat Michael Edwards’ trick of buying Mane and Salah for bargain prices in the first place.
That’s a forward in his early to mid twenties and a right-winger of similar age. Both ready to come into the side, provide pace, goals, mentality, running and fit perfectly into the ‘Not a dickhead’ policy, at £50m or less. We did it with Luis Diaz, but just how many more players are out there who’d fit the bill so perfectly?
That is the test of Ward and co. this summer, which could actually be so important as to define the rest of Jurgen Klopp’s tenure. We nearly won it all, but it looks like the end of our current era will begin with Mane’s exit. How smoothly we can move on from that will likely decide if it’s League Cups and FA Cups next season or the two we really want to win.
With the team of assist monsters that we have behind them, whoever’s inn our front three will challenge for golden boot next season.