Virgil Van Dijk has picked up much of Liverpool’s praise this season, with the defender leading the way alongside Raheem Sterling for the Premier League Player of the Season award. But a player that perhaps deserves more recognition is Sadio Mane.
This isn’t to say that Mane isn’t showered with praise – he is. However, he arguably is placed below the likes of Sterling and Eden Hazard as the best wingers in the league. The forward’s form in, especially in the last two seasons, suggests otherwise, however.
Mane arrived from Southampton in 2016 in a deal reportedly worth £34m and has continued to go from strength to strength ever since. Under the management of Jurgen Klopp, Mane has emerged as one of the most deadly wingers in world football. It’s well documented that Mane has pace and power in abundance, but it’s his guile and array of skills that make him so devastating.
During his time in the Premier League, Mane has scored 39 with his right foot, 18 with his left and five headers. Impressively diverse figures. Additionally, these are not just simple goals, Mane has proven he can score from all angles and at crucial moments.
This season has seen the Senegalese forward produce his best returns, claiming 18 league goals with three games remaining. A noticeable stat, however, is that he only has one league assist to his name this season. Perhaps this shows a change in mentality for Mane, who must now be recognised as one of, if not the most influential forward at the club.
Perhaps the most impressive statistic Mane boasts, is that out of any player with a minimum of ten goals, Mane holds the best goals per minute ratio in Champions League knockout stage history. It highlights just how important the winger has been in Liverpool’s Champions League campaigns both this season and last.
Throughout his Liverpool career, there have always been players that have taken the headlines as the star man. Whether this is Coutinho, Van Dijk or Salah, he has never been given the full credit he deserves. With Salah going through a run of poor form in the midsection of this season, it could be argued Mane has been Liverpool’s most important forward.
Liverpool signed £75m Van Dijk with the belief they were acquiring one of the best centre-backs in world football. They surely weren’t aware of quite how good Mane would have become, however. £34m is a bargain in today’s market, especially for a player that would now be worth so much more. He must go down as one of the best signings in Liverpool’s recent history.
Liverpool fans – is Mane a better signing than Salah or Van Dijk? Comment below.
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