The recently concluded summer transfer window proved to be a lively one for Jürgen Klopp and Liverpool.
The Reds brought in seven players, spanning four positions on the pitch for a combined total of 61.9 million pounds. That figure was dwarfed by the amount they earned from departures, the most profitable of which were the sales of Christian Benteke and Jordan Ibe to Crystal Palace and Bournemouth respectively.
Their most expensive acquisition was Senegalese forward Sadio Mane. Signed for a fee reported to be 34 million pounds from Southampton, Mane won over the Liverpool faithful on his debut with an excellent performance against Arsenal at the Emirates. The 24-year-old capped his display with a brilliant individual goal, an effort which required him to bomb down the right flank and leave two Arsenal defenders for dead with some quick footwork. If that wasn’t enough to convince the fans of his endearing qualities, his absence at Turf Moor against Burnley a week later proved costly. Liverpool were beaten 2-0 and the lack of pace and invention was alarming, given they were well-equipped in every other department.
He returned to first-team action against Burton Albion in the EFL Cup and grabbed an assist in a majestic display. A couple of days later, he began for Liverpool against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane and was one of the liveliest players on the pitch. Mane’s speed and strength proved a tad difficult for Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen to handle. In fact, his endeavours were thwarted by Tottenham’s Man of the Match that afternoon, Michel Vorm and such was his fortune on the day that when he did put the ball past the Dutch keeper, he was flagged offside by the tiniest of margins. All these outings have led to the establishment of one crucial fact: Mane is a Jürgen Klopp player and is perfect for the club.
His potential stretches well beyond the realm of Premier League football. Mane is capable of playing in Europe and has the guile to perform consistently for his club, provided his fitness is taken care of and any personal ordeal or dispute is dealt with. He briefly fell out of favour with Ronald Koeman at Southampton last season following rumours of a potential move to Manchester United, a headline whose validity was confirmed by the player himself. Not only is he flexible enough to play as a striker if and when required, but he also justifies his selection with a prompt willingness to track back and help his side defensively in difficult situations. Those demands are imperative for a Liverpool player to adhere to and this, coupled with his desire to turn a game on its head makes him an excellent buy, on paper at the very least.
Alongside Phillipe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino, Mane looks perfectly set. Klopp’s decision to abandon the use of a centre-forward and deploy a false 9 may not work every time but when it does, the results are terrifying for his opponents. Arsenal felt the full brunt of that system and simply couldn’t handle the flamboyant trio. What differentiates Mane from his Brazilian colleagues though, is his strength both on and off the ball. More often than not, he manages to shrug off any incoming challenges and gallop down the pitch. That said, he occasionally retrieves the ball if he is dispossessed in attack, thereby making him the complete player.
Hattricks against Aston Villa and Manchester City as a Southampton player provided the Saint Mary’s faithful a glimpse of the mercurial talent that Sadio Mane is. Inconsistency may have led to strong criticism a couple of times during his two-year stint in the south coast but at Liverpool, he appears more mature and menacing than ever. Should Klopp find the perfect balance for the Senegalese hitman, he might take Premier League defences by a storm and become a force to be reckoned with. For all we know, Mane could be an Anfield hero.