Since Jurgen Klopp took over at Liverpool in October of 2015, the club has seen a resurgence of epic proportion. Klopp’s signing of Sadio Mané five years ago on June 28, was arguably the spark that really jump started Liverpool’s rise.
The Senegalese wide forward signed from Southampton for £30 million, where he had proved to be unplayable on his day. Assistant Manager Peter Krawietz had been a fan of Mané since he was coaching with Klopp at Borussia Dortmund and Mané was playing for RB Salzburg. Krawietz spoke to liverpoolfc.com about his appreciation for Mané as a player and as a leader on the five year anniversary of his signing.
“I remember the first time I saw him on video,” reminisced Krawietz . “It was a winter friendly game between RB Salzburg and Bayern Munich. I believe Salzburg won this game three or four nil and Sadio scored and it was really, ‘Woah, what is that?!”
Interestingly, Klopp and Krawietz wanted to bring Mané to the German side, but they missed out on the deal.
“I believe Jürgen feels that as a manager it was one of his biggest mistakes not to sign him for Borussia Dortmund! But then of course we had him always in our minds, we knew how unbelievable he can be. We followed his development at Southampton as well and he performed already on this higher level, in the Premier League, and this was in the end a no-brainer opportunity to bring this player to our squad. That was one of our golden decisions, I would say.”
A golden decision, indeed. Mané would immediately become a live wire for Liverpool, combining electric pace, astonishing short area quickness, silky close control, and an extremely underrated grittiness and work rate to become one of the most feared players in the game. Krawietz described just how exciting he was to bring Mané into the fold.
We were really, really excited about him because his qualities are unique, I have to say. Sadio is a player with every, every, every possibility in attacking: his one-v-one skills, his speed, left or right, his finishing. His ability to score goals with his head as well is unbelievable - to jump as high as he is able to do, I never saw that before. He is of course not the tallest player but he is one of the strongest in the air. As well, his readiness and ability in terms of defending; whatever you want from him he is able to learn very, very, very quick and has this effort he puts in for the team in defending situations as well.
So this makes him an absolutely valuable player, unbelievable. This package, you don’t find very often. This combination of strength, endurance, speed, one-v-one skills, left wing or right wing or in the centre: he is able to do pretty much everything. In combination with his attitude, this is an absolutely unbelievable package.
That unbelievable package went on to score 13 goals and assist 5 more in the Premier League in his first season with the club. His offensive output, averaging a goal or assist every 125 minutes, was a key part of Liverpool getting back into the top four. In fact, over his career with Liverpool, Sadio Mané has managed double digit goals every season, which is fantastic for a wide forward. Over all, he has scored 97 goals in 218 games. Peter Krawietz, however, reminds us that there is so much more to Mané’s game than just the statistics.
How can I say it? Me, as a coach, I go away from statistics because to be an important player for your team there are a lot of things you have to do which you can’t measure with statistics. Positioning, readiness, attitude: there are no numbers where you can measure this but you see it and you feel it in the moments you watch him.
We all know Sadio wants to score goals as well, but the value he has for us is different. To give one example, in our famous 4-0 win against Barcelona in the Champions League semi-final Sadio didn’t score. But one thing is clear for us, for everybody in the coaching staff and for the manager as well: that the most unbelievable game and the most unbelievable player on the pitch was Sadio Mane. That day, he was not-to-stop. He defended everything and he was dribbling with the ball, he was the value of two players in one. He was just everywhere!
We have that in our mind everybody who was in the stadium saw that. In the statistics books there are of course the goals and he didn’t score, but everybody who saw that game saw that it was one of the most unbelievable performances of an offensive player I ever saw. This is a little bit the problem with all these awards and statistics. Everybody is looking at the guys who are scoring the goals but like I said, there is no measurement for playing a good performance apart from successful passes, goals and whatever. But all these other things, it is not possible to express them in numbers and this is a little bit the thing where we feel the value of Sadio and this is why we appreciate it so much what he is doing for years for this team.
Mané’s work rate and willingness to grind and get stuck in on both ends of the pitch absolutely set him apart. He is never a passenger, and absolutely has the ability to take games over. Even on a day when he is not at a best, he never quits on anything, and keeps grinding to make something happen, making him one of the most dangerous players on a consistent basis. According to Krawietz, Mané’s no quit attitude and has shown him to be a leader in the eyes of the other players and the coaching staff, even if he isn’t the most vocal player.
He leads by example, he leads by quality, he leads by his attitude. Of course he developed to become a more experienced player, to win titles - and all these titles we won, he was one of the most important players we had on the pitch. For nearly four years, he is always available, he is playing so many games and he always brings this certain energy for the team. He is, at the end, for the other teams not-to-defend. Even if he is losing one or two or three dribbles, you always know he will be able to break through in the next second so this is why it is so unbelievably difficult to defend him and why he is, of course, one of the keys for us. I cannot describe well enough how big his value is for our team.
His development to become a quiet leader, his personality, the readiness to work on certain things. You can see the fire which is burning inside him on the pitch and a lot of opponents try to provoke him. This is something that he learned during the years as well, to stay calm and at the same time not to lose his fire and his will and his ambition to play successful football and to give the opponent no possibility to bring him out of the middle of his brain, to disturb his concentration or his focus. This is something that he improved so massively and is a clear sign of his personality and his development to be one of the top three players in the world in his position as a winger. Of course, you never know what will happen with a player but he was ready to listen and to learn and to develop, and Sadio made a massive step to become one of the best professional players in terms of attitude and living his sport and living his ambitions over the last years. So, he is a role model, of course.
Sadio Mané has been so good for so long, it’s easy to lose sight of just how dominant a player he is. Even when he’s in a doldrum, as he was this past winter, he still manages to create chances and opportunities for himself and other.
Besides being a fantastic player, Mané is by all accounts an even better person and community member. He has funded a school and a hospital in his hometown of Bambali, Senegal, and has pushed his FA to provide better playing conditions. He has been filmed scrubbing toilets at his mosque in Liverpool just hours after scoring a winning goal against Leicester City, and has been lauded for how humble and down to earth he is.
We are extremely lucky to have had Sadio Mané in the prime of his career, and on the 5th anniversary of his signing, it is nice to take a few moments to sit back and reflect on some of the many magnificent moments he has been a part of. While he is approaching 30, you just know that with his tenacity and work ethic, there is plenty more left in the tank. I can’t wait to see a fully rested Sadio Mané back for Liverpool this season, ready to terrorize defenders and then dazzle us with his smile.