The time has come to say goodbye to Sadio Mané at Liverpool. By the time you read this, the deal with Bayern Munich could be official, but even if it isn’t for a few more days all the chatter from journalists in England and Germany indicates that it’s a done deal. Some I’s to cross and some T’s need to be dotted, perhaps, but we now know for certain that we’ve seen the last of Mané at Liverpool.
It’s not particularly a surprise at this stage of proceedings, given the arrival of Darwin Núñez earlier this week. The young Uruguayan forward can be Liverpool’s record signing if he ends up meeting certain performance based clauses. But there’s no secret that Jurgen Klopp and Director of Football Julian Ward are trying to rebuild the Liverpool attack while staying at the height of world football. Luis Diaz, who was originally slated to be signed this summer, was brought in during the January window 5 months ago. New additions often mean that current players need to move on just as Sadio is doing.
Goodbyes are a part of life. They’re painful in every way, but they’re one of the most certain things we can expect. It’s what makes scenes of movies so griping or the chorus of a song so moving or the end of the chapter so intriguing. They signal the end of a time before the beginning of one. If you had told me a few months ago that Sadio would be the first one of the vaulted Front Three to leave, I would’ve scoffed. I thought he’d be the last to leave, but here we are saying goodbye.
I was having a conversation with someone today about how at peace I am with this move. It is so much better to say goodbye on your terms than it is when things sour. We got the absolute best of Sadio Mané and nobody can take that away from us. Mané got the best of us as well. Rome. Barcelona at Anfield. Number six. The first title in 30 years. All of it.
It’s easy to think about The Front Three has a holy trinity; not separated but one deity. Sure, Roberto Firmino was here first, perhaps as the all-knowing Father, but the Front Three (and everything it meant for Liverpool beyond) wouldn’t be what it was without Sadio. He was the Spirit that catapulted us forward to greatness. He was the signing that transformed Liverpool into the side we see today. From his first goal against Arsenal where he bursts forth in glorious light down the right side, Mané has always been there when we needed him the most. Mané leaves Liverpool to head to Germany having won every trophy he can at Liverpool. That was unthinkable when he joined in 2016.
Everyone has their favorite Mané moment. My personal favorite is the spin goal against his new club Bayern Munich in the Champions League in 2019. I was in a shitty pub in London watching it with whoever was in there. Then, that goal happened and I went ballistic. But, favorite goals are different than important goals. When I think of goals that epitomize Mané’s time at Liverpool, it’s hard for me look passed what ended up being his last goal for the club. It ended up not mattering, but Mané equalized against Wolves on the last day of the season. Having just created separation from his defender, he received the ball into space and barrelled into the box in his trademark fashion. It’s a calm finish amidst the chaos of last season’s title race. Anfield electrified. The hope of the title was tangible. It wasn’t realized in the end, but delivering hope is often the hardest thing to do. Mané delivered us hope at all times.
Mané was that man. He rose to the occasion time and time again. Without him Liverpool wouldn’t be the world juggernaut they are now. However, it’s always better to say goodbye too soon than too late. That’s why today I’m not filled with too much sadness over this deal. It’s a sensible footballing decision by all parties involved and I’m the first to tell you that the finer details are important. The thing about memories and nostalgia is that they can play tricks on us. Things get fuzzy and rosy and we lose sight of the task at hand. That’s why I’m glad Liverpool and Mané are deciding to part ways at a time that makes sense for all parties.
Perhaps I’m reading far too into everything, but leaving at a time like this might be the best contribution Mané has ever made to Liverpool. There’s been dozens of reports of his selflessness during his six years in Liverpool. From building schools and hospitals, to funding mosques in the city, to asking to the club to not celebrate his AFCON triumph out of respect to his teammate Mo Salah. He was always thinking about everyone else. We won’t have to worry about how we’ll love him when he grows old. We don’t have to think about his dips in form or what happens when he’s passed. He’s a bonafide Liverpool legend leaving at the peak of everything. We get the Sadio smiles without the frowns.
Thanks for the memories, Sadio. Without you none of this is possible.