With Mario Götze sitting on Bayern Munich’s bench, Liverpool fans spent the spring getting themselves caught up in the idea of the former pupil of Jürgen Klopp reuniting at Anfield. The 24-year-old had stumbled under Pep Guardiola, but for a time he had been one of the brightest prospects on the continent.
Götze, though, declined the move. And so Liverpool moved on to the next attacker on Klopp’s list, 24-year-old Southampton and Senegal star Sadio Mané, a player the Liverpool manager had been keeping an eye on since his days at Red Bull Salzburg, where he had been the brightest young attacker in the Austrian Bundesliga.
"I have followed Sadio for a lot of years since his impressive performances in the Olympics in 2012, and then watched his development in Austria and in his time at Southampton," said Klopp of his newest signing. "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.
"He has a lot of quality, works hard, and has a very good goalscoring record. When I spoke to him I could tell that he was passionate about joining the club and playing for our fantastic fans. I think they will be just as excited about seeing him put on a Liverpool shirt as I am. It is great that we have managed to sign him."
In all competitions, Mané has scored 25 goals and added 13 assists in 75 total appearances since he joined Southampton two summers ago, good for a goal or assist every 138 minutes. In the same period at Bayern, Götze managed a very similar scoring record, with a goal or assist every 143 minutes he was on the pitch.
Add in that Mané is comfortable playing in a pressing system and has the flexibility to contribute from anywhere in support of a central striker, and it’s easy to see why he’s a player Klopp has been keeping an eye on—even if, for some Liverpool fans, it will be difficult to get past the fact he plays for Southampton.
Some fans will also struggle with his fee, reported as being anywhere between £30M and £36M, but transfer inflation and a new television deal is accounting for at least £10M of that compared with what Liverpool would have expected to pay for Mané even just three seasons ago. It’s a high fee, but Mané is a proven player.
He’s also young and still has room to grow—he’s the same age as Manchester City’s Kevin de Bruyne, who that club paid £55M for last summer and who scored a goal or assist every 132 minutes last season. He’s the same age as Willian was when Chelsea beat Liverpool to him with a £30M bid—three summers ago.
Mané has a proven track record in one of Europe’s top leagues, is young, and seems a perfect tactical fit for Liverpool under Jürgen Klopp. Any way one looks at it, fans should be counting it as an exceptionally exciting signing for the club. Now it’s just a matter of waiting for pre-season to start.