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Sadio Mane: The Right Signing for Liverpool?

Via AllinOne Sports

Per reports from the reliable Liverpool Echo, the Reds are targeting Sadio Mane as their key summer transfer in attack.  Rumored to command a few of about £30 million, Mane would rank as Liverpool’s third largest signing in history.  Mane is a secondary target for the Reds after Mario Gotze basically refused to come to Anfield despite his struggles over the past couple seasons at Bayern Munich.  Possessing tremendous pace and promising yet inconsistent skills in the final third, Mane would be a big signing for Liverpool.  However, is Mane the best option for the Reds out wide, especially for such a hefty fee and weekly wage?

Operating primarily on the right wing this season for Southampton, Mane scored 15 goals and assisted another nine in 43 appearances.  Utilizing his scintillating pace and clinical finishing in the final third, Mane is a very streaky player who did not record a goal or assist for almost four months before scoring eight in as many matches.  Mane would offer a wide presence that Liverpool were unable to provide this season after the departure of Raheem Sterling.  Due to Jordon Ibe’s developmental lull, the Reds were devoid of width throughout the second half of the season that Jurgen Klopp has made a point of addressing this transfer window.  Mane’s ability to run in behind the defense from the right wing would add a totally new dimension to the Liverpool attack.  Currently, Adam Lallana plays on the right side as a part of the midfield three behind the striker in Klopp’s preferred 4-2-3-1 formation.  Lallana’s role is more of a facilitator to help Liverpool’s more creative players get in dangerous positions.  Also, Lallana is best known for his ability to operate the press and consistently win back the ball for his side.  Mane would be much more of an attacking focal point, while offering a presence in the final third that Lallana does not appear capable of.

Adam Lallana LiverpoolXI1

Mane would be brought in as competition for Lallana, but the two players are very different in their styles.  Mane attacks with pace and focuses more on finishing off his own chances whereas Lallana’s role is to create for others.  For a better illustration, Mane averaged 2.1 dribbles, 1.1 key passes, and 2.3 shots per game whereas Lallana only made 1.2 dribbles and 1.5 shots per game, but made 1.7 key passes per match.  The key difference between Mane and Lallana is that Mane operates by running at defenders down the flanks while Lallana, though technically a wide player, tends to drift inside more and participate in buildup rather than charging down wide areas.  Whether or not the change in style from the right midfield position would have a significant impact on the side is up for debate, but Mane would clearly offer a threat that Lallana cannot, utilizing his skillset that none of Liverpool’s players currently possess.

Perhaps the biggest reason why Klopp is so interested in Mane is the Senegalese player’s underrated ability to press.  As I previously mentioned, Lallana’s ever presence in the Liverpool team this past season was largely due to his pressing abilities.  However, Mane might actually be an upgrade over the Englishman in this area of the game.  This season Mane averaged a stellar 1.5 tackles and 0.9 interceptions per match.  Even though Lallana averaged 0.5 more tackles per match, Mane actually made 0.4 more interceptions per match.  In addition, Mane recovered possession for the Saints every 14.2 minutes, virtually the same as Lallana’s mark of a recovery every 14.06 minutes.  Mane’s ability to press the defense in a side that did not have the fervent demands of Jurgen Klopp is the most underrated side of Mane’s game.  Plus, Mane would only improve his defensive abilities under a manager who values the defensive aspect more than Ronald Koeman at Southampton.  Mane may have the same effectiveness pressing as Lallana does now, but if he were to come to Anfield and work with Klopp, the Senegal International would likely become superior to Lallana.

Despite Mane’s incredibly frustrating inconsistency that would need to be ironed out in order for him to become an unequivocal success for such a pricy fee, he would definitely be an upgrade on Lallana.  However, for a huge fee of £30 million, Mane does not have the consistency to be immediately worth such a large sum.  Mane would arrive on Merseyside as the fourth best attacking player in the Reds’ side behind Daniel Sturridge, Philippe Coutinho, and Roberto Firmino.  Plus, the latter two players struggled this season from the inconsistency that plagued Mane (albeit to a lesser extent than the Southampton wide man) suggesting that this problem, which happened one of the biggest reasons why the Reds finished a mere eighth in the table, may not be immediately fixed by adding Mane to the squad.  In fact, Mane could actually make this problem worse after his season was basically three seasons in one where he started strong, then disappeared for a few months, before finishing the season in the same form he started.  For a Reds side that needs to take advantage of no European competitions this season by finishing in the top four, Mane’s inconsistency combined with current Reds’ players inability to consistently deliver at the level they are capable of could worsen the problem.

Mane is a notorious stat padder who was not as dominant as his 15 goal/9 assist tally would suggest.  Southampton are a club that regularly sell their players well above market value especially to other Premier League clubs.  If the Reds were forced to pay £30 million (the Saints initially wanted £40 million) it would be another overpay for a Southampton player, as transfermarkt rates Mane’s market value at £20 million.  Transfermarkt is not an exact valuation system, but their analysis of Mane is pretty accurate.  Mane has the potential to be worth upwards of £40 million and perhaps even higher, but his lack of consistency warrants a much cheaper fee despite his flashy stat line.  At that high of a fee, the Reds should be welcoming in a player that would immediately become one of the three best players in the side.  Mane is only that level for about half the season and while Klopp could develop the Senegalese striker into the level he could become, a £30-£40 million player should traditionally be much closer to the finished product.

With all of the money going into the coffers of Premier League sides this season, it should not be surprising that Southampton are asking for such a high fee.  Market values are at astronomical highs, and for a player with Mane’s skillset that would fit into what the Reds need very well, there are few options that would equal what Mane can bring to Anfield.  As a result, purchasing Mane would be an overpay, but due to current market conditions, this may be the Reds’ only viable option.  In addition, under the tutelage of Klopp, Mane could become a player that is worth almost twice of what the Reds pay for him.  The Senegal international regularly goes through stretches in which he is easily one of the best players in England, and if Klopp can develop Mane into a player who can consistently perform at this level, the Reds would be getting a steal.  A £30 million fee is a realistic cost in today’s market to purchase a player that offers a very good level of play in the short term, but who also has a potential to be a star.  Many Liverpool fans would be disappointed to have to shell out so much money for a player that is not the finished product—myself included—but unfortunately this is a direct result of current market conditions.  Mane would not be the perfect signing, but due to exorbitant valuations in the transfer market and Mane’s premium skillset, a £30 million transfer would be an acceptable piece of business for the Reds that could turn out to be a massive bargain a few years down the road.

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