The new Luis Suarez? Liverpool winger Sadio Mane could prove best signing of the season
Liverpool made Mane the most expensive African player of all time when they spent £34 million (Dh165.6m) to sign him from Southampton. It seems like a bargain already.
Mane has a locker full of talent. The most obvious is his burst of pace. Highlight reels of him flying past defenders in his Southampton days were a regular occurrence and he has already left several opposition players trailing in his wake in his first three league games so far for Liverpool.
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Quite often, when wide players possess as much pace as Mane, it comes at a cost in other areas – there are plenty of pacey but erratic wingers on teams all round Europe – but the Senegalese combines it with ball control and movement.
It is a potent combination and he has also shown that he can finish as well as any striker.
Mane would fit into the starting line-up at any top side and they will all be kicking themselves for not trying to sign him. At 24, his best years are still ahead of him.
One mark against Mane at Southampton was his inconsistency. He had a 16-match spell during the middle of last season without a goal and his then manager Ronald Koeman criticised his attitude after he missed a team meeting.
But Mane should mature with each season and has already shown evidence that he is a big-game match winner.
Over his two seasons with Southampton, he was the star player in wins over Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City. He scored four goals against Liverpool last season.
This time around he has already put in two man-of-the match performances and won England’s Goal of the Month competition for August.
So good was his display in Liverpool’s 4-1 thrashing of champions Leicester City on Saturday that whispers comparing his impact on the team with that of Luis Suarez were said to be doing the rounds at a new-look Anfield.
The deal for Mane just seems like such good value. If you compare him with Raheem Sterling, another winger who has had an equally spectacular start to the season with Manchester City, Mane matches the England international in every department and is a better finisher.
If you gave clubs a choice of either player, most would probably go for Mane.
Mane has hit double figures in goals in each of his last four seasons, at Red Bull Salzburg and then Southampton. Ten goals is surely a minimum for him in 2016/17 at Liverpool.
It all bodes well for Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp. If Mane continues his development and form this season then they could be looking at a Player of the Year nomination as their rivals look on with envy.
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Published: September 12, 2016 04:00 AM