Sadio Mane’s departure from Liverpool looks set to be formally announced today.
The 30-year-old’s departure will be a big blow for Liverpool and will leave a few dilemmas for Jurgen Klopp next season.
Not least of those will be who is chosen to become Liverpool’s new number 10. Mane has worn the shirt with distinction for the last four years, but now a successor must be put in place.
One of the most iconic numbers in football, it deserves to be worn by a special player, as Mane was. Here are four candidates who we think could be in-line to take the coveted shirt for Liverpool next season and beyond.
The natural choice
Firstly, probably the most natural choice – Luis Diaz. The Colombian has already taken over Mane’s long-standing left-sided role in the team, taking his shirt would be the next step in the process.
Diaz has already proven himself worthy of wearing such a lofty number for his new club. His impact at Liverpool since his move last January has been instant, electrifying and in the words of Jurgen Klopp via liverpoolfc.com, ‘outstanding.’
Currently wearing number 23, he might have an eye on the 7 that he most recently wore at Porto.
But with James Milner extending his contract for another year, he may decide the timing is right for a change.
The dark horse
Diaz’s most prominent rival for the shirt is probably the other former Porto player in Liverpool’s squad – Diogo Jota.
Stylistically, Jota may look a little more of a ‘traditional’ number 10 than Diaz. He also has the goal record which suggests he’d more than do the shirt justice.
But as the song The Kop bestowed on him declares, Jota wears the number 20. It would be a shame if, after all the hard-work of coming with a belting chant, it would be rendered unusable.
The new kid on the block
If we’re talking stylistically, then there’s only one player who would really fit the bill at Liverpool – incoming forward Fabio Carvalho.
It would be a big call from the player to take on such a huge number at such a young age.
But the 19-year-old has lofty ambitions for himself. Carvalho is aiming to reach Portugal’s World Cup squad this winter. This would be a signal that he isn’t messing around.
He’d be much more of a Philippe Coutinho than a Sadio Mane, but he’d look right at home with a ten on his back. Perhaps Klopp will decide he doesn’t want to add pressure to the youngster, but he might be an outside shot.
There aren’t many Liverpool players who could do with a new number more than Harvey Elliott.
While Trent Alexander-Arnold has made the number 66 somewhat iconic, Elliott’s number 67 looks more like a by-product of being far down the pecking order.
As he grows into his role in Klopp’s first-team squad, maybe it’s time for him to go bold and claim a big number.
Jurgen clearly thinks he has the talent to be around for a long time in Liverpool’s starting eleven. If he goes on to play for the club for a long number of years yet, it could be the start of a beautiful story with the shirt.
Of course, there’s still a chance that Liverpool save the shirt for a special signing this year or, more likely, next year.
One thing’s for certain though, whoever claims Mane’s old shirt will have some mighty high standards to match.