That Sadio Mane will go down in Liverpool history as the greatest player of all time is no big secret at the moment. A key member of Liverpool’s rise to the top of English football, Mane is a player who guarantees both industry flair as well as a consistent end product.
The Senegalese winger has won both the Champions League and Premier League with the Reds but added to another illustrious list on Saturday (19 September). He became the 18th player to score 100 goals for Liverpool when he opened the scoring against Crystal Palace.
In fact, given that he has now scored in the last nine fixtures against Palace, you could say it was almost inevitable. “I love playing against Crystal Palace. It would be great to play him every single weekend,” Mane said afterwards. Will the Palace enjoy it is a different story.
Mane also equaled Robin van Persie’s Premier League record of scoring against the same team in nine consecutive matches. In the Dutchman’s case, the unfortunate victims were Stoke City.
Still, Mane has an excellent record. And one that, ultimately, serves as a reminder of just how good the Senegal international is.
Sadio Mane – Constant Prolific
People forget it now, but when Liverpool spent £34million to sign Mane from Southampton in 2016, few raised an eyebrow.
The following season saw them largely reversed by the arrival of Mohamed Salah. In fact, many believe that Mane’s achievements would have received more attention if it had not been for his goal-scoring exploits in Egypt.
Yet this line of thinking ignores the fact that they are two very different players. Salah is more comfortable finding offensive positions to score, while Mane is a classic reverse winger. He is just as prolific as Salah, despite not having the same amount of defensive freedom.
But to overlook Mane’s hardworking nature would be to overlook a significant part of what makes him so good. That he is as comfortable tracking down the opposition’s full backs as he is when dribbling them is a key part of his appeal.
Which is what makes his goal-scoring exploits even better. A player with that kind of defensive work-rate shouldn’t score as much as Mane has in his career.
Nevertheless, in the 2017–18 Champions League final, Mané scored the equalizer for Liverpool – joining Salah and Roberto Firmino in scoring 10 goals in a single edition of the tournament.
The following season he was crowned joint winner of the Premier League Golden Boot with 22 goals. The players he shared the trophy with – Salah and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – are more goalscorers than him.
Yet he was there sharing the same stage with them.
victim of one’s own company
Sadio Mane continued his form into the following season as Liverpool ended a 30-year wait for a league win. But his output dropped significantly in the 2020-21 season. He went on to score just 16 goals after scoring 20 or more goals in the previous three seasons.
The drop in form clearly affected Mane, and while it couldn’t have been helped by him contracting COVID-19 last year, he still wasn’t happy with the way things were.
“I was very disappointed with last season, and passionately, as I thought I could have done more,” he said.
“While I was scoring 18 to 22 goals a season, on that occasion it was no longer the case, of course, I was going to be disappointed.”
Is it a case of decline or has Mane’s workload caught up with him? While it is not an easy question to answer, what is certain is that Mane’s form has taken a toll on past comparisons.
A hard working player like him needs to manage his workload. That hasn’t been the case at Liverpool in the last few seasons. With the exception of his first season, where he was briefly injured, he played close to 50 games in each season at the club.
That kind of output, especially given the demands of high-intensity football Klopp makes, will eventually catch up with any player. And Mane has shown glimpses of being affected by that hangover so far in the new season.
He has scored three goals in five matches so far, but he looks far from his best. That being said, they may have catalysts for a resurgence in form, depending on the type of record.
Liverpool fans will certainly be hoping for the same.