The reaction to Sadio Mané missing games through injury has underlined the impact he's made so early on in his Liverpool career. Mané missed the defeat away to Burnley with a shoulder injury but returned against Burton Albion. Although it was just one game, many Liverpool fans saw his presence as something Jürgen Klopp's team can't do without right now.
Not only is the 24-year-old an exceptional athlete, there is a combination of technique, persistence, and game intelligence. There has been a rapid transition from doubter to believer concerning the second biggest signing in the club's history, a fact that hasn't been lost on former Liverpool striker John Aldridge.
"He's only played three matches – but the sense of excitement building around Sadio Mane is considerable," Aldridge observed in his column for the Liverpool Echo. "And it's understandable. He's direct, he goes past players, he's always looking to go forward – and as we've already seen he's got an eye for a spectacular strike.
"I hate comparing players, but the situation around Mane is very similar to when John Barnes arrived at Anfield in 1987. Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying Sadio Mane is the new John Barnes, but he is generating a similar kind of buzz. Liverpool fans can't wait to get their first glimpse of him at Anfield, just like in 1987 when John Barnes was signed."
Divock Origi and Daniel Sturridge provide pace in behind defensive lines but are strikers. Klopp, however, has taken a more flexible approach in deploying Sturridge in a slightly wider position than the 27-year-old is accustomed to. Sheyi Ojo could provide a pacy and direct option when he returns from injury but is still only 19 and inexperienced. Mané, however, is quite different to all the attacking options Liverpool have in the first-team squad.
His attacking game is already well-developed and mature to be counted on every week, and his body—despite recent injury worries—is durable enough to provide Liverpool with his unique talents throughout the season. As Aldridge pointed out, there is definitely a sense that Liverpool have picked up a special player.