Given Liverpool’s dubious track record with players costing in excess of £30m, Reds fans would be excused for greeting Sadio Mane’s big-money transfer with a degree of scepticism.
Add into the mix the prevailing consensus that Southampton have milked their club for a succession of players recently and there’s another layer of cynicism surrounding the transfer to slice through.
Those same fans ought to have more faith in their bespectacled saviour however. Unlike Andy Carroll and Christian Benteke, the only previous Liverpool signings to have broken the £30m barrier in up-front transfer fees, Mane has been purchased in a period of managerial certainty.
Jurgen Klopp’s first real foray into the transfer market as Reds boss appears to be well thought out, totally his idea, if a little expensive.
According to the German he has been tracking Mane’s development for a number of years, pre-dating his impactful stay at St.Mary’s when regularly scoring for Red Bull Salzburg.
The Senegalese international does fall into that modern, loose-fitting bracket of ‘forward’. In the case of Liverpool and numerous other clubs preferring a 4-3-3 formation, this is no bad thing.
Even better still for the explosive, skillful arrival from the south coast is that Klopp has probably earmarked the right side of his front three as the ideal slot for his first purchase.
Klopp discovered a myriad of options to play off the right when he took the reins in October, but judging by the amount of different faces that tried it for size – Adam Lallana, Jordon Ibe, Roberto Firmino, James Milner and Daniel Sturridge all took turns on the right during 2015/16 – Liverpool’s manager never found his Cinderella. This paves the way for Mane .
The 24-year-old is versatile and could easily be deployed across the forward line or even as a number 10 type.
However, his finest work for Southampton was conducted from the right of a three under Ronald Koeman.
In nine starts from the right of the Saints’ attack, Mane bagged five goals and assisted two more in the Premier League, compared to two goals and three assists from 18 appearances centrally.
Lallana’s polished performances for England in the same right-sided position of a front three may just muddy the waters slightly for his manager, though for the money spent there’s every chance Mane will be first choice ahead of the Three Lions maestro.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.