For years now, people have been laughing at Liverpool for signing players who either;
- Played really well against them.
- Played for Southampton.
So, when Sadio Mane signed from the Saints in a club-record deal this summer, the same old cackles were out. Klopp was supposed to change the Reds reliance on mid-table players, we were told. He would buy big names, true superstars – the best of the best. We heard names like Mario Götze thrown around. Names that were big hitters in the press, but names that also never really fitted what the German wanted his side to play like moving forward.
Now, as we head into early November, Sadio Mane is one of the best players in the league. At just 24, the rapid Senegal forward is beginning to show everyone just why he’s one of the most impressive players around. And, just like Adam Lallana, Nathaniel Clyne and Dejan Lovren, why buying Southampton players isn’t something to deride.
Impressing the Kop
It’s also safe to say that Mane wasn’t universally accepted by Liverpool fans. He was seen by many as an expensive gamble, another player with minimal success in terms of trophies won but lots of money in the bank. A good show-reel player who went months without scoring last summer.
We all heard the tropes. Now, he’s the new John Barnes.
An Electric Start
With 6 goals and 2 assists in just under 900 minutes of play, the little winger is showing why he brings a dimension to Anfield that hasn’t been seen for many, many years. Complaints over the quality of wide men has been a major concern since the inception of the Premier League for many a Liverpool side. It would appear that, finally, this has been avoided.
With a WhoScored rating of 7.87 so far, Mane is one of the highest rated players in the league. Playing for a club with such major expectation is never an easy thing, but it is something that Mane has adapted to and grasped with both hands. Already, he’s got the Kop in thrall of his talents.
Mane, though, impresses the most for us because of the things he does that you wouldn’t expect. You expect a £30m+ wide player to be good on the ball, fast, and with an eye for goal and his teammates. What you don’t expect is one who is good in the air (his goal against Watford a fine showcase of that) nor do you expect him to have such an active role to play in the defensive side.
He tracks back well and has no fear of putting in a tackle. At times it’s even to his detriment, such is his desire and his requirement to win the ball back as much as he can and as often as he can. In terms of talent, then, few wide players in the league can come close to Mane. It’s what he does outside of his talent, though, that impresses most.
Liverpool might just find that, when he leaves in January for the African Cup of Nations, that he’s more than the Southampton player many thought they had signed.