Chris Sutton has warned Liverpool that they won’t find another player like Sadio Mane if he leaves the club this summer.
Speaking on BBC 5 Live’s Monday Night Club, Sutton claimed that Mane’s versatility across the front line is what Liverpool will miss the most.
“I think they’d bounce back strongly (next season) with Mane still in a Liverpool shirt. Lose him, I’m not saying he’s irreplaceable because Klopp’s recruitment has been excellent, but Liverpool’s level of consistency has been down to that forward line and Mane has been so, so versatile,” said the pundit.
“Plays off the left, plays centrally, and that’s in a false nine position, I think they’d struggle to replace him like for like really quickly. I can’t think of another player who could come into Liverpool and do the job he’s done.
“I know they’ve got competition for places now, Diaz has been a good signing, Firmino came on (in the Champions League final) and we know he’s been a great servant for Liverpool. But I think that would be a massive blow to Liverpool if he (Mane) left.
Jack of all trades, master of all
Sutton’s assessment of Mane is pretty accurate. One of the most impressive features of the 30-year-old’s Liverpool career has been his ability to excel in different positions.
We know that Jurgen Klopp likes his players, and forwards in particular, to be multi-faceted. But of the ‘original’ front three, Mane is the only one who has switched roles throughout his time at the club.
Mohamed Salah has played the odd game through the middle, but by-and-large he has been exclusively a right-sided player. Certainly in the last two seasons he has rarely strayed from his favoured position.
Roberto Firmino is another who has played a settled role over the past few years. Initially he struggled to nail down a position under Brendan Rodgers and played all over the pitch, mainly from the wing.
It was clear that this wasn’t where his skills were best used, though. Since Klopp transformed him into a deep lying striker, he has never once found himself playing wide for Liverpool.
New kids on the block
In terms of the new guys on the block, both Luis Diaz and Diogo Jota are much more in the Mane mould. Both have played all three forward positions for Liverpool.
Neither has, as of yet, been able to offer the same as their Senegalese predecessor though.
Jota has scored with good frequency, but isn’t able to lead the line with the same presence as Mane. Diaz has done a good impression from the wing, but is yet to properly hit his stride in-front of goal.
If reports are to be believed, Liverpool will actually look to replace Mane with a more out-and-out striker if he does leave.
This would be welcome in finishing off some of the chances that Liverpool have a tendency to miss on regular occasions. But it would mean maybe losing that unpredictability in attack.
There still looks to be some way to go in the Mane saga. If he stays, expect him to keep giving everything in a Liverpool shirt. If he goes, he’ll leave a great, gaping hole in several positions, there’s no doubt about that.