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Can Liverpool Deal With Mané’s Absence?

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Liverpool must find a way to cope when Sadio Mané departs to AFCON in January.

Everton v Liverpool - Premier League Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

The month of January can be a shifting block of ice under the foundation of many a football club. After a crowded run of holiday fixtures that can shake teams up with added injury risks and heavy squad rotation, in steps the mid-season transfer window and the unpredictable emotional swings of supporters who mentally scour the earth for the best players and insist that at least one of them be given a contract and a spot on a Melwood wall to lean on.

But Jürgen Klopp’s stance on transfers has always been the same: a player will only come into Liverpool Football Club if the fit is right, if the player sees what’s going on in Liverpool, the project, the hard work, and buys in completely to what Klopp and his team are out to achieve. In other words, money will not be pinned to the dangling carrot as any kind of incentive.

“I can say we don’t want to convince players with money,” Klopp told reporters at his pre-Stoke press conference today.

“We want to have players ready to develop.”

There will always be calls for more players, for great players, for players on the rise. Fans like new faces. It’s just the way it is. But with the added reality of losing Sadio Mané to the African Cup of Nations this January as we are still hovering in a Philippe Coutinho-free uncertainty that bounces precariously upon the long-dicey ice of Daniel Sturridge, there will be louder calls for reinforcements in the coming weeks.

Of course, Klopp is not interested in such fraught language. He is the cool one and is quick to remind everyone that Mané’s commitment to Senegal is not a surprise and the club are prepared for his absence.

“I’m really happy with the squad,” said Klopp. “From the beginning of January, Sadio will not be involved but we still have options.

“We can play different systems. Our players are really versatile. We need to show this. We have to find solutions.”

The debate on the January transfer window will roll on. Those sheets of ice will continue to shift underfoot. But Jürgen Klopp is clear that nothing will be done that doesn’t fulfill an explicit need and include an explicit type of player mentality.

“I think usually in winter,” said Klopp, “if you don’t have the biggest injury issues in the world and you need players for building a line-up then, you should only do things you’d do in the summer.”