Friday 20 October 2017

John Aldridge - Sadio Mane on course to be the game's next £100m superstar

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Liverpool's Sadio Mane
Liverpool's Sadio Mane

John Aldridge

SADIO Mane suddenly looks like the bargain of the century after his £30m move to Liverpool last summer - and the fear must be that he will be next on the wanted list for one of these mega-money transfers that are becoming the norm.

Manchester United were among the clubs linked with Mane in the months before he left Southampton, yet the Senegal international was not see as the world-beater he is developing into following his arrival at Liverpool.

What we witnessed from Mane in the 4-0 demolition of Arsenal at Anfield on Sunday was further evidence that he has the potential to join the ranks of the A-list performers and he could do that very quickly.

This lad has pace, power, finishing ability, he is a good reader of the game and he is working under a manager who has helped to take up him a few levels.

You could see from the reaction of the Anfield faithful when he was taken off on Sunday that he is the new darling of the Liverpool fans and it is easy to understand why.

I had a chance to catch up with Sadio after the game on Sunday and he also seems to be a humble lad who is very happy with his lot at Liverpool.

Here’s hoping Barcelona continue to focus all their transfer attention on Philippe Coutinho because at this moment, you would rather have Mane in your team than the Brazilian playmaker.

I’m a big fan of Coutinho, but you have to wonder how he felt if he watched Liverpool’s demolition of Arsenal.

After Liverpool confirmed yesterday that Leipzig’s Naby Keita will arrive at Anfield next summer, it may be that Coutinho will stay for one more year and then his replacement will already be in place.

All of a sudden, it feels like Coutinho is not the most important player in the Liverpool team any more and that much was confirmed as he was absent from the rout of Arsenal.

Okay, so the opposition was pretty dreadful from start to finish, but that was a Liverpool team cranking through the gears and taking apart opponents loaded with high profile internationals.

Arsenal were there for the taking and Liverpool didn’t pass up the chance to hand them a serious beating, with the style of their play from first to last so exciting to watch.

That they did it all without the player Barcelona have made a bid of around £100m to sign made the performance even more impressive.

The balance of a front three featuring Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah looked great and on the break, the three of them were far too hot for Arsenal to handle.

They have pace, aggressive, finishing power and everything you would want to see and even though Liverpool can leave themselves open at the back with their attacking power, it is great to watch.

Emre Can and Gini Wijnaldum provided great cover in the midfield and the defence looked decent for once, as they nullified the threat on the rare occasions Arsenal got forward.

The only reservation we should all have as Liverpool fans is this; we were just as excited about our team this time last year and everything faded away when a few injuries were thrown into the mix.

Mane is so crucial to the team now and they simply cannot afford to be without him because he is the hub of everything that is good about the team.

Firmino is vital to way Klopp wants them to play, with his movement helping to pull defenders out of position to allow the wide attackers to do their damage.

Finally Salah has rapidly developed into a crucial performer, with his display on Sunday highlighting how quickly he has settled into this Liverpool team.

I felt Liverpool were the best team to watch in the Premier League last season when they were firing on all cylinders and anyone who witnessed that display against Arsenal would agree with me on that.

Manchester City play some good attacking football, Tottenham are good to watch as well when they are at their best, but the electricity of Liverpool’s attacking football is so thrilling to behold.

You can see them doing some damage in the Champions League this season with this brand of football, but the memories of the collapse suffered by the team mid-way through last season is a reminder of how fragile a team can be.

Klopp has every right to enjoy this international break as his Liverpool team has shown how good they can be, but all the problems at the back and with the depth of the squad have not been solved yet.

Only when the transfer window shuts on Thursday night and we have a chance to assess the personnel in the Liverpool squad will we be able to give a final judgment on their credentials to win major honours this season.

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