Are you happy about Sadio Mané?
I’m not happy about a lot of things at the moment. Recent events within the World have shaken my faith in humanity and common sense. As for LFC, if we were a couple we still wouldn’t be talking and one of us would still be sleeping in the spare room.
Finishing 8th, and effectively giving up on European competition via league placing, was okay with me as long as we went and did the job in the Europa League final. We didn’t and all of the team’s flaws were brutally exposed when it mattered once again. So we gave up on the league and then the team gave up against Sevilla; not a great way to head into the off-season.
The club merrily claps its hands on social media about the new expansion of Anfield – an expansion that most of us won’t sit in unless we’re prepared to go corporate but expect us to be fired up about it. Hey don’t worry, though, here’s a big money signing on the horizon, riding to our rescue to give a bit of lift for the comi… oh no wait, it’s another Southampton player.
Dave’s often made the joke in the TLW diary about our scouts having their Excel spreadsheet stuck on the Southampton tab but at this point I genuinely have given thought to it being true. We went from Gotze to Mane in less time than it takes a seagull to swoop in for a rogue sandwich on the seafront. Gotze seemingly not fancying playing for a team that’s not playing in Europe - the legacy of the failed Europa League campaign? Well let’s see how Manchester United recruits before we trot out that old line.
Sources from the club have briefed that Klopp thought about signing Mane at Dortmund, but didn’t, and that reads like a deflection of any transfer committee mutterings. Quite frankly I’m all tired out about wondering who signed which player and who wanted what player. The club’s course of ‘young and not quite an established star’ is well set now, the manager is the star apparently but he’s not preventing Moreno from crumbling in big matches. Moreno’s replacement being mooted as a 19 year old from Leicester’s reserves that Klopp’s mate likes. So yeah, Klopp had better well be the star because there’s no one on the playing side right now.
No I’m not happy at the moment, Mane’s signing doesn’t excite me but that’s my problem more than his, I’ll just have to work my way through it.
Over the past couple of seasons there have been no shortage of supporters and commentators pointing out that one of the issues with Liverpool is putting that round thing in the other team's net. We've not been that great at it. A common theme has been watching players who have rated from the very good to the quite mediocre all not quite doing enough to have 'keepers turning around to fetch the ball for a restart.
Coutinho and Lallana, both very good footballers, offer you many things but the nagging doubts about them consistently giving you the numbers, the pure hard numbers, still linger around them. Well that's what Mane puts at the top of his CV: “I do the numbers”.
Over the course of the last two seasons the Senegalese forward has been going at a rate of 0.4 NPG90 (Non-Penalty Goals per 90 minutes), or in possibly simpler terms – he'll score you a goal every 2.5 games without taking penalties. To put that into some context that's around the same number as Diafra Sakho, Vardy and Defoe have managed, and it is superior to the output of Rooney, Lukaku and Pelle. When you consider that more often than not he isn't even playing as a centre forward the figure looks even more impressive, and highlights why Liverpool aren't the only club to have been looking at him.
Stepping outside of his Premier League performances gives you nothing to suggest this sort of form isn't sustainable. He scores a goal almost every 3.5 games for Senegal and in his time at Salzburg he was going at a rate of a goal every other game. Throw into the mix that he chipped in with six assists last season (only the top ten players in the league did more than 8) whilst also being one of the better dribblers in the league, completing two a game, and it's a convincing package.
Some transfers can leave you scratching your head as to how a player fits in with a team, or with a manager's philosophy and tactics, but this clearly isn't one of those times. Klopp wants a high energy team and he wants players that are capable of breaking lines, pressing and producing a bit of the unexpected. Mane seems to tick most of those boxes to varying degrees.
At this point in time most fans are probably of the opinion that anyone who Klopp decides he wants to be a part of his plans for the future is alright with them, and that they'll trust the manager's judgement on players, which is fair enough. It's hard to make an argument that in this case the outlay of around £30m (which may be a common sort of figure thrown around for much lesser players in this window) seems to be backed up by a fair weight of evidence.
Hopefully come this time next year the only discussion of money regarding the lad will be which song with the word in the title we'll be using as his song. Let's hope it just isn't Notorious B.I.G's “Mo Mane, Mo Problems”, eh?
I’ve got mixed feelings about it. He’ll certainly bring something we don’t have but I’m not sure he’ll ever be seen as “money well spent” because of how much he’s going to cost. Granted, the new TV deal changes the landscape on transfer fees and in a few years time £30m will be seen as the norm, but right now it feels like Southampton have pulled our pants down again.
Similar to Adam Lallana I suppose. He’s a good player, he’s done a nice job for us, but he cost £25m and you expect more for that kind of money and that's a big dark cloud over his head that follows him everywhere and influences how he's judged by a lot of fans.
I fear that we'll always be saying that about Mané too, but hope I'm wrong. Even if he replicates his Southampton form here it won’t make him worth £30m so he’s going to have to keep improving. It's not unreasonable to assume he will, as Klopp's record in that regard is very good. While costing a similar fee, Mané is far less of a risk than Andy Carroll and Christian Benteke were, simply because he fits into the style of play and won't be asked to completely change who he is, so comparisons with the twin towers aren't applicable.
I like what he brings to the forward line in terms of his pace and goals because we don’t have enough of either. Ings and Origi have both but are more suited to playing as the central striker, and of the group of players who fill the three positions behind, they either don’t score enough or lack the speed to stretch teams.
Lallana, Coutinho and Firmino are all relatively similar in terms of what they want to do, but Mané is completely different. Klopp was probably hoping that Jordon Ibe might be that player but his form dropped off a cliff and his days look to be numbered now.
Mané has apparently played for a coach (at Salzburg) who is similar in style to Klopp so he shouldn’t have too much trouble fitting in, and if he can get us a dozen goals from out wide (which presumably is where he’ll mostly play) that represents a significant upgrade on what we’ve been getting. One negative I've noticed is that he's a rampant diver - even worse than his Southampton team-mate Shane Long - and he'll need to scale that back a bit.
If we’re mostly playing 4-2-3-1, ideally you’d want 20-30 goals from the centre forward position (spread out between whoever plays there) and you’d want double figures from each of the three who play behind. Coutinho can just about manage that, perhaps Firmino will too (although a large chunk of his goals last year came when he played up front), so if Mané comes in and continues where he left off at Southampton that should help us get better. Whether that's worth £30m depends on just how much better he makes us.