Sadio Mane is nearing a £35.1m move to Bayern Munich; Senegalese international set to leave Liverpool after scoring 120 goals in 269 games, many of them crucial; Jurgen Klopp faces a challenge to replace the qualities that Mane gave Liverpool
Jurgen Klopp probably didn’t want to be addressing transfer rumours in his press conference ahead of the Champions League final but questions on Sadio Mane’s future, however incongruous, were answered at length and with glowing praise.
Mane was described as being “in the shape of his life” ahead of the final, with Klopp adding that he “couldn’t care less” about stories linking him with Bayern Munich. “It’s a joy to watch him at the moment in training and in games,” said the Liverpool boss.
Klopp already knew at that point the meeting with Real Madrid was likely to be Mane’s last game for Liverpool. His desire for a new challenge became public within days of defeat at the Stade de France and, a month on, a move to Bayern appears imminent.
It is telling, though, that Klopp was effusive in his praise of the 30-year-old until the last. Liverpool are loathe to lose him but there are no hard feelings. Not after everything he has done for them.
Mane’s future had, until the final weeks of the season, been something of a sideshow to that of Salah – even though he too was entering the final year of his contract at Anfield.
It is a familiar dynamic. Mane, although cherished by those associated with Liverpool, tends to receive only a fraction of the attention and acclaim afforded to his team-mate. It has been that way ever since the Egyptian’s arrival, a year after his, in 2017.
He departs, however, having played a similarly crucial role in the club’s transformation during Klopp’s tenure, leaving an indelible mark on Liverpool and indeed on the Premier League as a whole.
His arrival from Southampton in 2016 signalled the start of the glorious chapter that followed. Mane was, after all, Klopp’s first major signing. Fast, ferociously aggressive and ruthlessly efficient, he came to embody Klopp’s Liverpool perhaps better than anyone else.
Together with Salah, he helped redefine expectations of wide forwards, reaching double figures for goals in six consecutive seasons and scoring at least 20 in four of them. His overall total of 120 puts him 14th in Liverpool’s all-time scoring charts.
The numbers cement his Liverpool legacy while the consistency of his output, as well as the pivotal role he played in the club’s first title triumph in 30 years in 2020, ensures Premier League greatness too.
Only three players have accumulated more Premier League goals than Mane during his time at Liverpool while only one, Tottenham’s Harry Kane, has scored more which have proved decisive.
Indeed, one of Mane’s greatest strengths, and one which separates him from his peers, is his ability to deliver at key moments, when the pressure is at its most intense and the stakes at their highest.
He is Liverpool’s clutch performer, to use a term popular in American sports, and the numbers bear it out. According to Opta, his goals have won Jurgen Klopp’s side a total of 63 points in the Premier League at an average of more than 10 per season.
He has been similarly decisive in the cup competitions, the most recent example coming in last season’s FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City at Wembley, when his double secured Liverpool’s place in a final they would go on to win.
In the Champions League, the raw statistics show Salah has outscored him by 33 goals to 24 during his time at Liverpool but it is worth noting that Mane’s total includes 15 in the knockout stages – a percentage of 63 per cent – to Salah’s 11 – or 33 per cent.
In fact, since 2016, only Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Robert Lewandowski have hit more goals in the knockout stages of the Champions League. It is another statistic which underlines Mane’s appetite for the very biggest occasions.
His contribution to Liverpool’s success under Klopp is even more impressive given the adaptions he has had to make along the way, switching from right to left to accommodate Salah in 2017, then switching to centre forward to make room for Luis Diaz last season.
Each role came with a different set of tactical requirements but Mane transitioned seamlessly every time, displaying a level of intelligence to match his physical and technical qualities.
“In each position, he is world class,” was Klopp’s verdict.
“He’s always moving for someone else but his performances never drop,” added Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher. “It doesn’t seem to matter where Mane plays, you get exactly the same from him. The same cannot be said for the rest of the Liverpool attack.”
In truth, the same cannot be said of many players.
Mane has not always received the recognition he deserves for his role in Liverpool’s recent successes but his importance can hardly be overstated. When it comes to the big moments and the big occasions, his departure will leave a void even Darwin Nunez may find difficult to fill.
Liverpool begin the 2022/23 Premier League campaign with a lunchtime trip to newly-promoted Fulham on Saturday August 6.
It will be the fourth season in a row in which Liverpool have started a new campaign against a Premier League newcomer.
But after then facing Crystal Palace, Jurgen Klopp’s side will take on Man Utd at Old Trafford on August 20.
September will feature away trips to both Everton and Chelsea in September and Liverpool will also face back-to-back clashes against Arsenal and champions Man City on October 8 and 15 respectively.
Liverpool’s final game before the season stops temporarily for the winter World Cup will be against Southampton at Anfield on November 12 before returning to action at Aston Villa on Boxing Day.
The Reds then host arch-rivals United on March 4, before tricky-looking clashes in consecutive weekends at City (April 1) and against Arsenal at Anfield (April 8), before finishing the season at Southampton.
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Liverpool are expected to conclude their incoming transfer business shortly with the signing of Aberdeen starlet Calvin Ramsay — which means that Jürgen Klopp will head into the new season without a signing to bolster his midfield.
Things could still change, of course — if a long-term target became available at a price deemed good value, then Liverpool would make a move. But it appears that Darwin Núñez will be the only big-money addition for this summer.
Should Klopp sign a midfielder, though? Or are Liverpool right to wait until 2023 to bring in another body in that area?
Two of our Liverpool.com writers have their say on the debate (and don’t forget: you can also have your say in the comments at the bottom of the page!).
“Waiting makes sense” – Matt Addison
Liverpool say that their transfer business is done for the season (or at least will be when Calvin Ramsay is confirmed) and that has not been welcomed by some people. But if we have learned anything over the past few transfer windows, it is that the Reds know exactly what they are doing — and they don’t tend to get things wrong.
The obvious reason for waiting until next summer is Jude Bellingham. That is a big reason on its own, but you also have to consider the options Liverpool already have for this year. James Milner has been signed up for another year and will play a big part, while there is no guarantee that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain leaves.
Liverpool will hope that Harvey Elliott does not get another injury to disrupt his progress, while Curtis Jones will be expected to kick on and play an even bigger role this season than he did last. There is still a decision to take on Naby Keïta, too, so waiting for Bellingham makes sense.
Even if Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain leaves, Liverpool will have up to eight midfield options. That sounds like more than enough, but the reality is that most of their options are ageing (Jordan Henderson, Thiago, James Milner) injury-prone (Thiago, Naby Keïta) or still raw (Harvey Elliott, Curtis Jones, Fábio Carvalho).
The midfield stands out as an area of weakness relative to Manchester City. And shortcomings in that department were part of the reason the Reds failed to beat any of the top four in the Premier League last season.
Thiago was also injured for the costly draws against Brentford and Brighton and Liverpool didn’t have an adequate replacement. I would have liked to see the club bring in a player of a similar mould, particularly with the World Cup set to increase fixture congestion. That wouldn’t preclude a move for Bellingham next summer.
In the short-term, it feels like the final piece of a title-winning puzzle.
Welcome to the Liverpool.com daily Media Digest. From transfers to tweets, it can be hard to keep up with everything going on in the Anfield sphere. Credible, incredible and anything in between: we round it all up in one place here, taking a sideways look at the day’s media goings-on from around the world.
Newcastle United have opened talks with Scotland U17 international Charlie McArthur of Kilmarnock, according to the Daily Mail, but face competition from both Liverpool and Manchester City to complete the deal.
West Ham, Wolves and Brighton have all supposedly shown interest in the player, who made four appearances last season as his side were promoted to the Scottish Premiership. The 17-year-old centre-back is set to command a six-figure transfer fee.
Fulham have tabled an offer for Liverpool right-back Neco Williams, according to Hammy End, with the player having impressed on loan at Craven Cottage in the second half of last season.
The 21-year-old slotted into Marco Silva’s set-up perfectly in the Championship and it is no surprise that Fulham want to keep him, but Liverpool are demanding £15m for his services.
“Neco from the first day he trained with us, he trained like a machine. Every day he became better and better and better and I thought, ‘OK, what’s that?!’” Jürgen Klopp said of Williams in 2020.
But Trent Alexander-Arnold is the undisputed number one choice at right-back and that won’t be changing — while he is set to have a new back-up in Calvin Ramsay, who could undergo a medical for the Reds this weekend.
Nottingham Forest, who are expected to need a replacement for Djed Spence, have also been credited with an interest in Williams, who is keen to play regular football ahead of the World Cup to make sure he has a starting place for Wales nailed down.
De Ligt ‘wants Liverpool transfer’
Juventus defender Matthijs de Ligt would sign for Liverpool ‘immediately’ if the Reds offered him a salary of £200,000-per-week, according to Italian publication Calciomercato.
But that slightly overlooks the fact that Liverpool would have to pay a mammoth transfer fee for him — and that the Reds are already well-stocked at centre-back.