Sadio Mane has cemented his place in the Liverpool team and is a fan favourite but has now departed for the Africa Cup of Nations and all supporters want to know is when he will be back. We’ve got you covered as far as that is concerned.
Southampton sold Mane to Liverpool in the summer and when fans learned of his £36 million price tag the anger was a sight to behold. Many wrote him off as being just another Soton player and didn’t even give him a chance.
Pre-season offered the first glimpse of what his blistering pace could do to teams and ever since he has been a fan favourite. In 19 Premier League games this season, Mane has scored nine goals and created four. His goals and assists have been crucial in Liverpool’s rise to prominence this season and without him, there is a huge gap to be filled.
There have been several names tossed around when speaking about covering for him, but the truth of the matter is that his influence is felt less by his goals and assists than what his pace and directness does. His terrifying speed is what makes defenders so scared of him and without making a new signing, there is no player at Liverpool that can produce what Mane can.
There is good and bad news regarding Mane’s return to Merseyside. The best case scenario is that Senegal fail to progress from the group stage. In which case, Mane will play his last game in Gabon on the 23rd of January and will then need time to travel back to England and recuperate from what is sure to be a gruelling tournament.
The worst case scenario, and it really is a worst case, is that Senegal make it to the final of the tournament and Mane plays his last game on the 5th of February which would see the forward absent from club duties for over a month. This could have a detrimental effect on Liverpool’s chances of staying in the top four.
Mane will definitely miss games against Manchester United and Swansea City in the league but could conceivably be back for a month’s end kickoff against Chelsea. He will also miss both legs of the league cup semi-final against his former club Southampton.
Jurgen Klopp has taken measures to ensure that Mane returns to Liverpool unscathed and has reportedly hired Dave Galley, who was Liverpool’s head physio for six years, in order to personally monitor Mane’s fitness and report back to the Liverpool medical staff. Galley will combine with Senegal’s staff in a bid to ensure that Mane emerges from the AFCON without a scratch.
Senegal are tipped as one of the favourites to win the AFCON so there is very little chance of Mane returning to the U.K early and will more than likely progress to the knockout stages despite being placed in a tough group with Algeria, Zimbabwe and Tunisia.
If Jurgen Klopp signs a new winger to cover for Mane it will go a long way to filling the huge gap leaves behind. That being said, there will be questions asked about the new signing’s squad role when Mane returns.