Sadio Mané fought a double historic stigma when he arrived at Liverpool this summer; first, the faulty notion that Southampton players making the switch from the south coast don't succeed at Liverpool — an idea previously countered by the instant success of Nathaniel Clyne, and more recently the slow-burn improvement of Adam Lallana and Dejan Lovren, and secondly, that Senegalese players don't do well in red. Granted, the latter has been historically accurate — if patently haphazard — but the difference in quality between impulse purchases Salif Diao and El-Hadji Diouf in 2002 and the thoroughly scouted Mané should be blindingly obvious.
As was predicted in certain corners of the internet, Mané has been both a perfect fit and a missing piece of the Liverpool puzzle, seamlessly contributing the kind of relentless pressing and direct offensive mindset that Klopp requires, while offering a physical profile the Reds haven't seen in years. The result has been eight goals and four assists in his sixteen league appearances to date, making him the club's top goal scorer, while averaging a goal or assist every 116 minutes. It is a terrific return, and as a by-product of his durability, one that would realistically see him close in on 30 goal involvements over the course of the season, giving him plenty of opportunity to practice his goal celebrations.
Captain Jordan Henderson knew about the former Southampton man's talents, but admits he has been impressed.
“I always knew that he was a good player,” the skipper said.
“I had watched him at Southampton and could tell what he was like from playing against him. But since he has come up here, he has gone up another level.
“That is credit to the manager for helping him improve. It is also credit to him for wanting to improve. He has been fantastic for us this season and he will be a big miss when he goes away with Senegal."
Ah yes. The turd in the hamper. It is a bitter pill to swallow that Mané will be traveling to Gabon in early January to represent his country in the African Cup of Nations, missing up to seven matches, including crucial league encounters with Manchester United and pace-setters Chelsea. While most Reds fans will cross their fingers Senegal crash out of the tournament at the group stage, Henderson believes his squad can handle the disruption.
"We have got players who can step in and we will deal with it," the captain continued. "Whoever takes his place, it is up to them to carry on his work.”
Exactly who will replace the influential winger is as of now unclear, but it is encouraging that Henderson has faith in his team. Hopefully, that faith is well-placed.