When an attacker’s goals and assists record rise, so does his stock too. Yet when the same player is absent and the club crumbles in front of goal, his stock certainly hits the roof, proving his importance to his team.
At present, one does not need any sort of clue as its Liverpool’s Sadio Mane. They look like a completely different side without the former Southampton star. Mane hit the ground running as soon as he arrived at Anfield for £34 million in the summer, and he proved it was a bargain fee as he went on to score 9 goals and laid on 4 assists before leaving to the African Cup of Nations to represent Senegal.
However, Mane and his country’s dream of championship success was cut short after they were eliminated by Cameroon on Saturday. Despite being an important cog in Senegal’s attacking wheel, the 24-year-old missed the only penalty of a nail-biting shoot-out where Cameroon cruised to the semi-finals with a 5-4 victory. The aftermath of the miss saw Mane dangling with mixed emotions, with the feel that he was responsible for his team’s early exit.
Liverpool fans certainly felt bad to see Mane in such situation. On the other hand, it was confetti before their eyes as their much-needed talisman is set to return to England’s top flight, and hopefully in time for the upcoming tie against table-toppers Chelsea at home.
Klopp’s men have only secured one win in their last seven games without the jet-heeled winger and his return could instantly turn their fortunes around. Liverpool’s 2-1 defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers in the FA Cup fourth round was completely eclipsed by Mane’s return on Twitter. Here are some of the best tweets.
Sadio Mane is headed back to Liverpool.https://t.co/GVFIekyVY0
— showmethemoney (@smtm_LFC) January 28, 2017
When Mane arrives at John Lennon Airport in Liverpool tomorrow pic.twitter.com/zHAce1ggIV
— M (@MohitLFC_) January 28, 2017
Get that Mane on a plane!!!!
— John Gibbons (@johngibbonsblog) January 28, 2017
That's honestly a tactical masterclass from Mane to miss that so he can come back to Liverpool
— Sam (@FutbolMane) January 28, 2017
Mané missing his penalty for Senegal because he knows we need him. What a man.
— Leanne (@_lfcleanne) January 28, 2017
Obviously I'm happy we get Mané back but seeing him heartbroken is not nice, he genuinely gave his all for Senegal. Be proud Sadio.
— Ben Webb (@benwebblfc) January 28, 2017
Be interesting to see how big a difference Mane makes when he returns
— Craig Prakhill (@GreggParkhill) January 28, 2017
It’s somewhat a surprise, how can a single player’s absence affect the whole team’s momentum at once? Klopp is absolutely antithesis to the intentions of placing his responsibilities on an individual and Liverpool’s attacking play before Mane left was nothing but full of movements and ideas, one could never pick Mane as the only jewel in the crown. Even in matches where the winger was underperforming, Adam Lallana, Roberto Firmino, Phillippe Coutinho and even Divork Origi stepped up and got the job done.
Perhaps, that was the reason Klopp wasn’t so keen to sign stopgaps as he placed immense faith on the remaining players to dismiss the thought that Mane’s change of pace, attacking prowess and work-rate would be a miss.
No doubt, the Senegal attacker won’t walk into the first team straight away as he would surely be shackled with weariness and sentiments of missing out a trophy with his country. Nevertheless, a moral boost is expected within the squad and especially the fans, as it’s going to be a silent winter window for Liverpool yet again.