Coming to terms with losing a world-class talent isn’t new to Liverpool fans. Sadio Mane’s departure has been met with a mixture of emotions ranging from sadness to confusion, but ultimately a sense of understanding that, on this occasion, it might just be the right time for all parties.
With just one year left on his deal, Mane joins Bayern Munich for a reported £35 million package including eventual add-ons. The German champions will be getting one of the most popular players to have pulled on the red shirt in the modern era, and with plenty more to offer having only turned 30 in April. His sustained brilliance prompted comparisons to John Barnes; Jamie Carragher famously claimed in 2020 that the Senegalese forward could cement legendary status and even surpass Barnes someday.
It signals the end of a world-famous front three that catapulted Liverpool to a sixth European Cup and elusive 19th league title. A front three of genuine greatness that will go down in the history of the football club, a front three with 338 goals between them across their five seasons as a trio.
In the past decade alone Liverpool has seen Fernando Torres, Luis Suarez, Raheem Sterling, and Phillipe Coutinho walk out of the door, simultaneously breaking hearts and weakening the squad. It can be a tough pill to swallow, particularly when a side looks on the brink of taking that next step.
How is this Different?
What sets this apart from the Coutinho’s and Suarez’s of the world is that Liverpool is much better placed to deal with such departures, and the natural evolution of the forward line (beginning with the signing of Diogo Jota two summers ago) means that the pathway is visible and we can say with a degree of confidence that things are broadly going to be alright. That certainly wasn’t the case in the pre-Klopp days.
Liverpool is allowing top players to leave on their terms, and with the bigger picture firmly in mind.
This can all be true, and you are allowed to be sad about it all at the same time. Those two things can co-exist. Unfortunately what sticks in the throat is that this is likely to become an annual occurrence. The key men in Jurgen Klopp’s all-conquering era must all move on at some stage, summer 2022 just so happened to be Sadio Mane’s time.
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Roberto Firmino, Mo Salah, and Naby Keita are among those with contracts due to expire next summer. The likes of Jordan Henderson, Thiago, and James Milner aren’t getting any younger. The group of players that have given us so much joy, that finally returned the title to Anfield, will be slowly dismantled piece by piece. Wijnaldum was the first to fall last summer, and Origi and Mane have since followed in recent weeks.
How will we reflect on Sadio time at the club?
From an individual standpoint, he reached heights that very few have reached, and in almost any other era he’d have been heralded as our standout superstar. Luis Suarez and Fernando Torres were idolized and isolated because they were surrounded by relative mediocrity. Sadio Mane is at that same elite level but is surrounded by other Sadio Manes, other world-beaters, and a team that is worlds apart from those sides in times gone by.
He is the 14th highest scorer in Liverpool’s history, above the likes of Ian St. John, Kevin Keegan, and the aforementioned John Barnes.
He of course goes with our best wishes, after six years of success beyond our wildest dreams and every major club medal in his back pocket. Without our red-tinted spectacles, it is clear that Bayern is a great fit for the next chapter of his career. It provides him with an opportunity to continue the great work he has done through the middle since the turn of the year, having reinvented himself as a center-forward option since the arrival of Luis Diaz.
Not Always, (Rarely) Greener
Leaving Liverpool often doesn’t pan out as the individual might hope, take for instance Coutinho, Wijnaldum, and Torres. You could even go as far back as Michael Owen. It is often the case that leaving Liverpool isn’t conducive to fulfilling personal potential, and that Liverpool did the right thing by cashing in at the most opportune moment.
There are outliers of course. Luis Suarez, Javier Mascherano, and Raheem Sterling are among those who have gone on to achieve levels of performance and success that weren’t guaranteed at Liverpool. At this point in his career, having recently switched positions once more, we will watch on with interest to see which category Sadio falls into, as he presumably looks to fill the space vacated by Robert Lewandowski.
Who’d have thought, after announcing himself with a brilliant solo goal on his debut at Arsenal, he’d go on to achieve everything he has achieved and become one of the best forwards on the planet, both wide and centrally. A great player and a great man who will look to write the next chapter of his story. Who knows, that chapter might yet include a Ballon D’or.
Thanks for the memories Sadio.