No matter how pessimistic you may be, you can’t deny that Bayern Munich have made a blockbuster signing this summer. In Liverpool winger Sadio Mane, the club have acquired a world class forward who has been consistently performing at the top level for years now. Having won the Premier League, Champions League, and the Africa Cup of Nations, Sadio Mane arrives in Munich with possibly the strongest CV of any of our recent signings.
Now, being Bayern fans, most of us don’t follow LFC on a regular basis, so we’re not exactly qualified to talk about what this transfer brings to the table. Thankfully, Noel Chomyn of The Liverpool Offside was on hand to answer some questions for us. Here’s what he had to say ...
Jurgen Klopp apparently used Sadio Mane as a False-9 for the majority of last season. Can you explain how he functioned in that role?
Mané started out last season on the left wing where he spent most of his six seasons at Liverpool, but following the Africa Cup of Nations with the arrival of Luis Diaz, Roberto Firmino injured, and Diogo Jota’s link-up play not quite up to par, Mané ended up at striker almost by accident. Or at least that’s how it felt, a shrug and gamble from Jürgen Klopp to try something different. And it worked.
Mané has always been an underrated playmaker and even before his move to the middle he had the best passing range of Liverpool’s attackers. There are plenty of examples of him interchanging with his left back, dropping deep on his right foot, and switching play or sending balls down the channels not unlike Thiago. He also has a great first touch and close control.
In the final few months of his final season at Anfield, Mané also showed he could drop into the congested areas in the middle of the pitch and link up play nearly as well as Firmino has in the past, which was a pleasant surprise and had a lot of people thinking he had a future at the position with us.
Of course that turned out to not be the case and instead we’ve gone and signed a player who looks a little more like, well, Lewandowski in Darwin Núñez.
I have no idea what direction Bayern might move in tactically, but while few would have picked him to play as a false nine before he did, it seems clear in retrospect that years spent working with Firmino in games and training resulted in Mané internalizing how to play that role to a high level.
Why did Liverpool fail to extend Sadio Mane’s contract? Was it his wage demands, his age, or something else?
This one’s impossible to answer authoritatively from the outside.
What is known is that every other important Liverpool player has been given a new contract or been in negotiations for one at some point over the past two years, but we’ve never heard anything about Mané in that time. I suspect if there had been a desire to deal on the player’s part that wouldn’t have been the case.
Can you us an idea of Mane’s form and its trajectory through the years?
Up until the Africa Cup of Nations, the narrative was that Mané’s form had dropped off somewhat over the past couple of seasons, perhaps owing to a loss of the explosive first step that can be seen in any highlight reel from his first few seasons at the club.
Whether that narrative was accurate or the result of opponents increasingly sitting deep and leaving less room for Liverpool to counter into I’ll leave to others to argue over, but it existed.
What is Sadio Mane’s fitness record usually like? Has he had any major issues in the past?
He doesn’t get injured and he doesn’t stop working. Until that post-AFCoN move to center forward there was definitely a conversation about a perceived declining effectiveness on the left wing, but I’m not sure I can actually remember him missing a game through injury.
How do you feel about the reported transfer fee? Are Liverpool fans satisfied? What will this departure mean for LFC?
The fee is fine for a 30-year-old going into the last year of his deal who wants to leave, though whatever Lewandowski — a player most would pick ahead of Mané in recent seasons but one who’s also three years older — goes for will add color to it. As for how most fans feel, there’s certainly a feeling of sadness but also a realization that everything comes to an end in football and we’re probably a year or two past when one of the famed front three would have been sold had it not been for Covid impacting football finances.
Seeing one of the club’s greatest ever forwards depart is sad, but with an aging core the reality is that keeping Salah, Firmino, and Mané together on big wages would have been a recipe for disaster that a club that isn’t owned by a state can’t afford. A refresh has been on the cards for a while, and adding Núñez and Diaz to the mix while Mané departs is just good squad building even if emotionally it’s not fun to see Sadio go.
Huge thanks to Noel for taking the time to do this QandA with us! So, how about it? Do you like what you see, or do you have concerns about the transfer? Comment below!