Facing Southampton will be a different proposition for Jürgen Klopp and Liverpool. Sadio Mané, the man who caused so many problems for Liverpool defenders last season, will be an ally instead of a troublesome opponent. Klopp could have brought Mané to Borussia Dortmund in 2014 but decided against it. The player joined Southampton from Red Bull Salzburg instead of featuring in what turned out to be Klopp’s final season at Borussia Dortmund.
Mané held talks with Dortmund before Klopp’s most difficult season in recent years but found an opportunity to grow under the leadership of Ronald Koeman. If Mané made the move to the Bundesliga instead of the Premier League, he probably would have been too expensive for Liverpool to buy in the summer transfer window. It was a mistake that Klopp is now happy he made.
“It was a pretty simple decision with Sadio this summer because I made the mistake at Dortmund where I didn’t take him,” Klopp said. “We met each other, we talked but by the end I didn’t feel this [strikes hands together]. About three months later I would have punched myself, so I already knew that the next chance I have, I would take it.
“So it was not a difficult decision. When the club came this summer and Michael Edwards [Liverpool’s new sporting director] said we have an opportunity there were no talks necessary any more. It was a case of: ‘Let’s do it.’
“I don’t know why I didn’t sign him before. I like the player, it was more of a feeling. At Dortmund we could only get one player for this position, not two or three, so it needed to be exactly the right fit in this moment. I’ve said a lot of times, I’m not a genius and I couldn’t exactly imagine where he was in terms of playing in the Austrian league and what does the Austrian league mean for the football [at Dortmund]?
“I have made more mistakes in my life like this but he would have been more expensive if we had taken him to Dortmund and then he had been sold to Liverpool, so all good for Liverpool. The more I think about it, that was my first Liverpool decision. Nice.”
Unlike Christian Benteke—another tormentor of Liverpool defenders who then made a big-money move to Merseyside—Mané has been outstanding so far. He was the star performer during pre-season, threatening to be the marquee signing that fans craved. The 24-year-old’s pace, directness, intelligence, and work ethic from wide and inside positions from the right appears to have pushed Liverpool’s attack to another level. His six league goals not only make him Liverpool’s top scorer but a reliable part of the attack.
Sadio Mané’s competitive debut against Arsenal was as good as it gets. The Senegalese international scored a wonderful goal to give Liverpool an unassailable lead at the Emirates and cap a fine performance. His absence against Burnley in the following league game was keenly felt in Liverpool’s only defeat to date this season. While Philippe Coutinho has made strides to become one of the early contenders for the league’s best player and Roberto Firmino’s role as a roaming number nine have been crucial, Mané is the final ingredient that completes a dazzling front three.
Mané is the fifth Southampton player to join Liverpool in recent years after Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, and Nathaniel Clyne. Other important players such as Calum Chambers, Luke Shaw, Morgan Schneiderlin, and Victor Wanyama have moved on from Southampton during the same period. However, the South Coast club continue to be competitive and make progress by successfully identifying replacements.
“Tell me two other Premier League clubs, or Bundesliga clubs, who could lose the quality of Sadio Mané and [Graziano] Pellè in one season and then the next year you think: ‘Oh yes, they are good again,’” he said. “Take Mané. The negotiations go on and they’re saying: ‘Not for this price, not for this price,’ but they already have [Nathan] Redmond in their pocket. Then they sell. That’s good, it’s what you have to do and what we did at Borussia Dortmund.
“They always took our players and we had to replace them. Everyone says there is not another player like him in the world but there are a lot of good players. You just need to know about them in the right moment and in the right situation. My respect for things like this is really big. I like Southampton but when I am there playing against them I don’t like Southampton. That’s how it is.”
Hopefully, that's now how it will be for Liverpool with Sadio Mané and other key stars under Jürgen Klopp.