Is Sadio Mane actually a dirty player who commits fouls? Jurgen Klopp moved to address concerns on Friday.
Jurgen Klopp gave his take on recent concerns over Sadio Mane. It seems teams look to target Liverpool’s no.10 in an attempt to get him sent off.
We saw it most blatantly against Atletico Madrid. Diego Simeone’s side did everything they could to wind Mane up and get him in the referee’s book. Eventually, they were successful.
In fact, it was so blatant that Klopp took Mane off at half-time in an attempt to save him from a red. That wasn’t the end of it, however.
Arsenal – and more specifically, Mikel Arteta – were trying incredibly hard to flag Mane up as a dirty player last weekend. That one got so out of hand that Klopp has a fairly furious altercation with the Gunners boss at Anfield.
Fortunately, they weren’t quite as successful as Atletico were. They got him booked but things never devolved to the point where Liverpool took Mane off.
Klopp, though, believes this has gone on far longer than most realise.
“For sure, for much longer it was a thing, even when it was not obvious to the outside,” he said, per the Liverpool Echo.
“You can see it in games they go for him because they want to wind him up, even if it is not that obvious.
“But it is two different things; one is to make Sadio to be really aggressive during games, we saw that against Flamengo in the Club World Cup final.
“Rafinha wanted to go for him after he caused them some problems when we played Bayern Munich in the Champions League, it was obvious from the first second.”
So why do teams do this? Is Mane actually a dirty player?
Sadio Mane and his fouls
No one committed more fouls in the Premier League for Liverpool last season than Sadio Mane – 57 in total. But that doesn’t tell the whole story.
Mane played the equivalent of 32 90s over the campaign, meaning his average fouls per 90 was around 1.83. That’s fairly high but not notably so.
Naby Keita, Thiago, Diogo Jota and Xherdan Shaqiri all averaged more, for instance. It didn’t even get Mane in the top 100 for the Premier League.
This season he’s at 1.52, with five Liverpool players averaging more. So no, Mane is not a particularly dirty player at all. He is, though, a fairly aggressive forward.
But it is quite clear that teams try to rile Mane up and make him a target. You can see that by the number of times he’s fouled.
Teams fouled Mane 84 times in the Premier League last season – over double that of any other Liverpool player. Mohamed Salah, in contrast, suffered 32 fouls.
That was enough for Mane to be in the top 25 most fouled Premier League players. It’s worth noting that the only one player from another top-4 side was fouled more – Mateo Kovacic.
It’s clear, then, that teams are physical with Mane. What we don’t understand, though, is why – he averages around three yellow cards per season.
Teams try to push him to his limits but it doesn’t actually work very well, making it unclear why multiple sides have tried it. Let alone why two so blatantly have in the last few months.
It’s a mystery, then. But no – Mane is not a dirty player, despite recent attempts to change that.