LFC Transfer Policy and Future Won’t Repeat Mistakes of the Past
Let’s get something out of the way. I loved Sadio Mane. I loved him enough to paint a massive banner of him in front of the Liverpool city skyline, something I’ve never considered doing for Mo Salah.
We all loved him so much that he had more than one song. Sadio was more than a mere mortal player to many of us. He will forever be one of Jurgen Klopp’s most important signings, not just one of the first. Mane was crucial in transforming us from aspiring to be a top side to actually existing as one.
I know I’m not alone when I say I will never forget the things he did for this football club, for me and my happiness, and that he will forever be a Liverpool legend in my eyes no matter what comes next for him.
Football has its realities like everything else in life. The fact is that Mane’s departure makes complete sense for both the player and the club.
The Mane Perspective
From Sadio’s perspective, the twilight years of his career that are coming should be spent as a central figure in a team, scoring lots of goals, winning things, being adored, and being paid like one of the best footballers on the planet, which he is.
Those are all things he could get at Liverpool though, right?
Well, not exactly. First and foremost, let’s remember that as much as they love their job, football is still a job for footballers. It has to be for them to maintain the level of professionalism and self-care required to play at this level. And for his job, Mane was paid a weekly wage well below his teammates of similar importance and stature.
With Liverpool’s style of structuring contracts with incentives, he’ll have undoubtedly been able to get his pay up to a level that is respectable, but not in line with what he’ll feel his base value is. He now seeks a contract of greater than £300k a week, a number that is realistic for a player of his quality but completely out of whack with the rest of Liverpool’s wage structure.
With Mo Salah already knocking on the door asking for even larger wages, the club was never going to give Sadio what he wanted. Personally, I think they may not give it to Salah either, but we’ll come back to that.
The money simply wasn’t going to be what Bayern could offer. It’s no surprise then that the player was easily tempted away as Munich will check a lot of those other boxes, i.e. annual trophy parades, scoring lots of goals, being a central figure in the team as Lewandowski departs, and being adored.
It’s not fair to say that fans didn’t appreciate Mane, we absolutely did. But it is fair to say that he had to live in Salah’s shadow to some extent. Given Mo has won multiple Golden Boots and seen his celebrity skyrocket in recent years, that almost seems justified. The two are friends, but it will have worn on Mane to not be seen in quite the same light.
The final straw that likely broke the camel’s back so to speak on a Sadio move is something that only Klopp can control and something that we don’t want to change. The intensity with which Liverpool plays, the chasing (not just pressing), and the constant work of it, wears on a player over time. Legs with a lot of hard miles on them struggle as seasons go on. Not many players can handle it for the long term, and it’s not suited, in many cases, to footballers in their 30s.
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Mane will have looked at all of this and thought it’s time for something new, something that will allow him to win and have the things he wants for his career for as many years as he can have that. And he found it. I wish him the best of luck from here, at least until we meet on the continent.
The Liverpool Perspective
From the club’s perspective, £42 million on a player that they paid less than that for and received six of his best years in his time at the club, is good business. The fact is, internally they will have sensed that this was coming and most likely, the move for Diaz was sped up not only because Tottenham was sniffing around, but because they knew that he was the perfect replacement for Sadio.
Toward the end of the season, Klopp moved Mane central to take up the number 9 role once inhabited by Bobby Firmino and held down by Diogo Jota at times. It was a brilliant move as it led to more production from Sadio, greater bench depth, and added a new spark to the attack through Diaz. But that plan seemed to be more of an improvisation than a clear path forward for the long term.
With Sadio’s wage demands and age, it makes sense to let him go now. The club will not have had to look far for an example of what happens when you bend to the will of players and concede the money they covet. In London, Arsenal supporters will attest to the problematic nature of doing so, having seen Pierre Emerick Aubameyang and Mesut Ozil both awarded massive contracts in excess of £300,000 a week as they approached the final years of being at their best. By the time they left the club, managers, teammates and fans alike were all begging for them to be gone.
Possibilities of Blurry Mane Future
This is not to say that Sadio will undoubtedly fall off the same cliff those players did, but it is possible that his production wanes, his body fails him or he simply doesn’t fit with the next evolution of Liverpool’s style the way that sort of salary demands that he does.
With Salah, the club has already tabled an offer reported to be in excess of that £300k a week number, and the player and his agent have swatted it away as not enough. Do not be surprised if Liverpool standby that offer and simply doesn’t offer him anything else. Despite all his goals and accolades, the mentality that no player is bigger than the club is pervasive amongst this management team from Julian Ward down to the assistant coaches.
Salah will be dressed in red for at least one more season, but it will not be surprising at all to see him leave for record wages at the end of next season. He has said that he will play for a rival, something that will be seen as a threat in the front office corridors at Kirkby. That’s not likely to end well in terms of him remaining at the club.
What is Next?
Whether that means he ends up at Newcastle being paid £1 million a week (not that unrealistic), or at United where he’ll make what he wants but burn every bit of his legacy, or at City where he’ll play second fiddle to Erling Haaland, remains to be seen. But given what we can see about Liverpool’s mentality around wages, it’s safe to assume that they won’t be bent over a barrel by Salah or anyone else and are happy to use the strength of the recruitment team to create the next generation of Liverpool’s attack.
The only exception among our once-vaunted front 3 is Bobby Firmino. His health has not been kind to him in recent seasons and of the three, he has the most miles on his legs having been here since Klopp took over as manager in the fall of 2015.
Of the three, Bobby seems as settled as any of them and would likely accept a contract extension on his current terms of £180,000 a week or possibly even take a slight pay cut and reduced role given the arrival of Darwin Nunez and the play of Jota. Firmino at his best can play a number of positions as part of an attacking four, as a false nine, or in something of a midfield role. That sort of tactical flexibility and ability to weave play together through the middle is something Klopp adores and may want to keep around.
Summing Up the Summer
On top of all the personnel decisions, the club faces this summer, be it weighing up bids for Alex Oxlade Chamberlain and Takumi Minamino or re-upping certain players’ contracts, many expect them to address a perceived weakness or shortage of bodies in the midfield.
If this recruitment team has shown anything, it’s their resolve in getting the players they want. They’re willing to wait, they’re willing to pay when needed and they’re willing to commit to long-term strategies rather than reacting to short-term circumstances.
I think for this summer, the Red’s incoming business may end with Darwin Nunez and Calvin Ramsey. Given we don’t know what the next iteration of this Liverpool team lines up like, you’re just going to have to have faith that Klopp has a plan, and the club is in line with it. I don’t know about you, but I feel fine.