When Liverpool signed Sadio Mané from Southampton in the summer of 2016, he was the first true marquee signing of the Jürgen Klopp era. He helped set the tone for what would become the most dangerous attacking line in world football.
With Mané set to end his Liverpool journey in the next few days, Klopp reflected on how excited he was to sign the Senegalese winger and right the wrong of deciding against signing him when he had the chance while still managing Borussia Dortmund in 2014.
“I made a mistake,” Klopp admitted when talking about the failed 2014 transfer. “We met each other, we talked but by the end I didn’t feel it. I like the player, it was more of a feeling.
“His baseball cap was askew, the blond streak he still has today. He looked like a rapper just starting out. I thought, ‘I don’t have time for this’. I’d say I have a pretty good feeling for people, but was I wrong!”
At the time, Dortmund was trying to compete with the powerhouse of Bayern Munich despite much more limited resources. This meant they couldn’t afford to miss on their signings, so if there was any doubt about a player, they moved on and targeted someone they had no doubts about.
In this case though, those doubts proved unfounded and Klopp pretty quickly regretted passing on Mané.
“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. About three months later I would have punched myself, so I already knew that the next chance I have, I would take it.”
Two summers later, Klopp was in his first summer with Liverpool and looking to add some bite to the front line. The instant Mané was floated to him as a possible option, Klopp knew he couldn’t pass on him a second time.
“It was a pretty simple decision with Sadio. When the club came this summer and Michael Edwards said we have an opportunity, there were no talks necessary anymore. It was a case of ‘Let’s do it’.
“Since I came here I have spoken to the staff a lot about him and have always felt he could be a very good signing for us. 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!”
It turned out to be a very good decision for both manager and player. Mané was the first big piece added to Klopp’s project, and together they went on to win everything they could. Mané is leaving as a champion in every sense of the word, and Klopp was able to put to rest any regrets he may have had about not signing him when he first had the chance.