The Class of 2018/19 is a short series in which, ahead of the new season starting on Friday, The Anfield Talk contributors review the 2018/19 season’s of Liverpool’s squad.
Here is @ , reviewing Sadio Mané’s season…
I have always felt that there is a lingering feeling that Sadio Mané isn’t appreciated as much as he should be. He has been putting in consistent world class performances since arriving on Merseyside in 2016 but he is rarely spoken about in the same vein as some of his more lauded teammates. Yet despite all this, he doesn’t crave attention, he just does what he can to give Liverpool the best chance to succeed and that is exactly why he is a perfect Jurgen Klopp player.
It was yet another memorable season for the scintillating Senegalese international. His consistency was an asset throughout the entire season in both the Premier League and Champions League. His wizardry was apparent no matter where he played across the front three. At times he was simply unplayable.
Along with Alisson Becker, Mané was the only Liverpool player to play in all 13 Champions League games this season. While he didn’t hit the dizzying heights of scoring in every round on this occasion as he did on the run to the final in 2018, his impact was as decisive as ever.
Arguably his influence on proceedings was never as great as it was when Liverpool travelled to Munich in the last 16 in what was a true passing of the torch moment. Bayern must have been fairly pleased to have gone to Anfield and come away with a draw which certainly wouldn’t have been said not too many years ago. The German side have been one of Europe’s best over the past decade but they were unquestionably second best over the two games on this occasion.
The Allianz Arena that night became Mané’s personal stage to showcase his pedigree. It was a performance that showed that Liverpool were truly back among Europe’s elite again. The first goal for Mané was especially magical as he took a brilliant touch from Virgil van Dijk’s long ball before spinning Manuel Neuer inside out, and finishing with a cheeky left footed dink from the edge of the box. The German champions are rarely humbled in the way they were that night and Mané was the primary tormentor.Domestically, Mané had quite a season too for a player not considered by everyone as a prolific goal scorer. He got off to a fast start and never let up finishing with 22 league goals which earned him a share of the Premier League Golden Boot with teammate Mo Salah and Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick-Aubameyang. Mané’s numbers were particularly impressive given he scored no penalties unlike those he shared the prize with.
From a distance, Mané might be wrongly considered to be a moody or selfish player. There was even a brief campaign at one point to try and stir up a misguided notion that he and Salah did not get along. Whereas in fact the opposite is very much true. Mané is a soft spoken and humble man who only seems to want to do what is best for his team.
Mané’s season for Liverpool ended with the triumph of all triumphs as they won the Champions League title with a 2-0 victory over Spurs. A year previously Mané had been the driving force behind most of Liverpool’s attacking threats against Real Madrid after Salah’s injury, and he didn’t take long to stamp his authority on this final this time around either.
Just 24 seconds had passed on the clock when Mané received a pass from Jordan Henderson and instinctively crossed the ball in the direction of Moussa Sissoko’s peculiarly outstretched arm earning his side a penalty which would end up being the game winning strike. Once again the Senegal man was outstanding in the final and was the most dangerous man in red.
It was victory that was well deserved for Mané and his teammates and one that would have seemed a million miles away when he first arrived at Anfield. The front three of Mané, Salah and Roberto Firmino is now considered among the best in the world and for good reason. There are very few players around that any supporter would replace any of them with due to how much chemistry and talent the group have. I would argue that when on form that Mané is the most dangerous threat of the three and that is the highest of compliments I can give.
Despite the heroics in Madrid, Mané’s season wasn’t over just yet as he jetted off to Egypt to play for his country in the African Cup of Nations. As always he was often the source of inspiration for his national side and thrived despite some serious physical attention from his opponents.
While international football is not everybody’s cup of tea, it was clearly an important event for Mané as he even stated that he would swap his Champions League medal for glory with his country. Senegal would come agonizingly close to making sure Mané would have two winners medals but it was not quite to be as they lost a bruising final to Algeria by the narrowest of margins.
Mané will now get a well deserved rest before rejoining his Liverpool teammates in a couple of weeks. It does seem likely at this stage that he will not be fully available for the start of the season but when he does return we can expect the same again from Sadio. He has improved his goal return in each season since arriving from Southampton and you wouldn’t bet against him hitting new and dizzying heights again.
It is almost instinctive as supporters to want to compare players to others in style, personalty and effectiveness. Probably my favourite thing about Sadio Mané is that there is nobody quite like him. He is an electric eel of a player who has such an unpredictable and unique way of performing that I often (almost) feel bad for defenders going up against him. Mané is Mané and we are extremely fortunate to have him on our side. I reckon the best might still be to come.