Southampton is a football club renowned for producing and nurturing some of the most talented and exciting players in England. While they have often failed to hold on to them, given the interest they have drawn from richer clubs, their ability to scout potential league heroes and churn a new bunch of academy achievers has been universally acclaimed by pundits and fans of the game alike.
With the inception of inflated transfer prices and bigger budgets per team, though, the Premier League has been regarded the holy grail of European football sagas and cash-strapped stories. This has affected Southampton in a greater degree than it ever has in their entire history, considering the players they have developed and the potential they have showcased. The summer of 2014 was a testament to their inability to keep the giants of English football away from their prized assets and so, a mass exodus left them with a lot of cash in the bank but an alarming lack of spine and formal structure. Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert and Dejan Lovren switched Saint Mary’s for Anfield, Luke Shaw became the most expensive teenager in British football history back then with a big money move to Manchester United and Calum Chambers was snapped up by Arsenal. Having lost Argentinian boss Mauricio Pochettino to Tottenham Hotspur right after a splendid 2013-14 campaign, the vibe around the club was negative and experts labelled the South coast side as relegation candidates.
Enter Ronald Koeman, a former Barcelona player. The Dutch manager made the most of the extra cash reserves at the club by recruiting a pool of talent from clubs across the continent, the most prominent and exciting of which appeared to be Senegalese forward, Sadio Mane.
Having plied his trade in Austria with Red Bull Salzburg prior to this, Mane was known for his blistering pace both with and without the ball and his ability to beat defenders for skill at the drop of a hat. His first season in England was a decent one with 10 goals to his credit, three of which were scored in record breaking time in a 6-1 demolition of Aston Villa in April 2015. The following year would prove to be an incident clustered one as reported interest from Manchester United and a supposed fallout with Ronald Koeman led to the Senegalese hitting a rough patch. He eventually found his feet, albeit a tad late as a hattrick against Manchester City and further impressive performances ensured Mane ended the season on a high.
As football would ultimately dictate, though, Liverpool came knocking again in the summer of 2016 and made an offer of 34 million pounds for the forward. Despite having been labelled an indispensable player for the club by the supporters, Southampton agreed to that fee and severed ties with him. His replacement? Nathan Redmond, one of Norwich City’s young starlets.
Both players had their share of good and bad outings for their respective clubs last season and the statistics concur. While Mane had 11 strikes to his name, Redmond had only six although the ratio of goals scored with regard to the totals accumulated by Southampton and Norwich respectively was identical. They both were dangerous on the ball and a further comparison of the numbers they raked up makes it all the more fascinating.
While Redmond’s ability to pick a key pass and create chances exceeded that of Mane’s, the Senegalese was far superior in terms of assists provided, successful dribbles and tackles. Mane had more shots on goal too although, in all fairness to Redmond, he was part of a Norwich side that struggled to score goals in their ill-fated top flight campaign. All these metrics taken and considered, it became clear that Redmond was thought of as Norwich’s central playmaker while Mane was rendered more of an impact player with Dusan Tadic acting as the Saints’ creator-in-chief. The former may not come across as an upgrade on the departed Mane but at 12 million pounds and 22 years of age, the potential is vast for the pacey Englishman. Interestingly, both Mane and Redmond kick started their campaigns with a goal on debut.
Statistically, Mane had a better season than Redmond although circumstances varied for their respective clubs last season. What is undeniable is the fact that both players were crucial to their former employers and their new clubs will provide them a stage to showcase themselves, once again.