Time Waits For No Mane: Sadio's Saudi Move Proves Liverpool Right

Jurgen Klopp parted ways with Mane at the perfect time
14:00, 03 Aug 2023

Sadio Mane has moved clubs for the second consecutive summer. The Senegal forward has transferred from Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich to Al-Nassr of the Saudi Pro League. Last summer, it was Liverpool selling Mane to Bayern. At the time the move was questioned as one of the stalwarts of modern Anfield was cut loose. But the last twelve months have exonerated Jurgen Klopp from claims he had sold a vital part of his Liverpool starting lineup.

On the surface, it would be easy to reach the conclusion Liverpool should have kept Mane. The Community Shield was the only silverware added to their cabinet. The Merseyside club could only muster a fifth-placed Premier League finish. After coming within a whisker of a quadruple the season before, it was a sharp drop.


But even if Mane had remained in their ranks, it is likely little would have changed. While there is a horses-for-courses argument to be made, Munich did not exactly fall in love with the forward. A promising start gave way to a troubled year. Seven goals in 25 Bundesliga games was his worst ever haul in a complete league season. You have to go back to his Southampton days to find a lower all-competitions record than the 12 goals he scored for Bayern.

Every elite player reaches that point where their once-impeccable performances start to decline. Given how crucial he was to Liverpool going close to four trophies the season before, you can pinpoint Mane’s Bayern move as exactly that moment. While Mane might have performed better in the Liverpool side than he ultimately did at his new employer, perhaps he was let go because it was sensed his decline was drawing near.

Klopp is accommodating to veteran talent, with James Milner and Jordan Henderson only having left this summer while deep into their 30s. Therefore, the fact that Mane was 30 last summer will not have been the factor that swayed the manager to part ways. Rather, the player’s departure felt like the culmination of a long-term strategy.


Liverpool’s modern era has largely been defined by the front three of Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino. With three complementary forwards, each in their respective prime, Liverpool won the Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup, EFL Cup, European Super Cup and Club World Cup. But all good things must come to an end and, while its been done gradually, the transition to a younger attack has been coming for a while.

Diogo Jota arrived from Wolverhampton Wanderers as far back as the 2020-21 season. Klopp was not resting on his laurels after Liverpool had finally won the Premier League the season before. Even as the Mane-Firmino-Salah triumvirate was celebrating its finest moment, the former Borussia Dortmund manager had one eye on what was to follow.

The January window of the 2021-22 campaign saw left winger Luis Diaz arrive from Porto. Far from being eased in, he was a constant presence in the second half of the season. Scoring six goals in 26 appearances as Liverpool lifted both domestic cups and reached the Champions League final, the traditional front three now had serious competition. Injuries prevented Diaz being as much of a factor last season, but at the age of 26 he has plenty of time to make a starting berth his own.

Last summer, Klopp expanded his attacking options once more. While Mane headed for the exit, Benfica hitman Darwin Nunez came in to replace him. The Uruguay international hasn’t quite hit the ground running. Comparisons to Manchester City goal-cyborg Erling Haaland haven’t helped. But Nunez seemed to acclimatise as the season went on. You’d back him to expand greatly on his nine Premier League goals when the domestic football recommences.

January saw the possible final piece of the attacking puzzle put in place. With the knowledge that Firmino would leave at the end of the season when his contract expired, a replacement was sought. The highly-touted Cody Gakpo, a long-term Manchester United target, was snatched up from PSV. Seven goals in his half-season at the club was a highly promising start to his life at Anfield.

As Mane prepares to integrate into a side in which Cristiano Ronaldo is king, Liverpool have moved on without him. The Senegalese superstar will always be a beloved figure at Anfield. But as with other departing heroes like Milner and Firmino, Klopp probably picked the right time to consign him to the club’s past. Liverpool are trying to look forward, not back. Mane proved at Bayern that he can no longer hit the standards that made him one of the Premier League’s most dangerous footballers. At least that shared burden might be an ice-breaker when he meets up with Ronaldo.

latest football odds*

*18+ | BeGambleAware | Odds Subject To Change

Suggested Searches:
The Sportsman
Manchester United
Manchester City
Premier League
Sportsman HQ
72-76 Cross St
Manchester M2 4JG
We will not ask you to provide any personal information when using The Sportsman website. You may see advertisement banners on the site, and if you choose to visit those websites, you will accept the terms and conditions and privacy policy applicable to those websites. The link below directs you to our Group Privacy Policy, and our Data Protection Officer can be contacted by email at: [email protected]

All original material is Copyright © 2019 by The Sportsman Communications Ltd.
Other material is copyright their respective owners.