‘Wanted: Sadio Mane lookalike for 2-4 week contract. Will involve African travel. Discretion necessary. Please apply to Liverpool Football Club.’
That’s a tweet which was doing the rounds earlier this week as Liverpool geared up for Mane’s departure for the African Cup of Nations with Senegal. And you can bet Reds boss Jurgen Klopp would have given the ploy some thought as the German will be without the club’s leading marksman for the rest of January.
Indeed, the 24-year-old has unexpectedly emerged as Liverpool’s most prominent player in what has been an unanticipated title challenge. Unexpected in the sense that when Klopp made him the most expensive African player of all time – they parted with £34 million (Dh153m) for his services – it was initially met with a degree of apprehension.
That was probably a fair assessment given their recent track record of recruitment from Southampton, at least at the time, had failed to inspire much confidence. But fast forward 20 games into the league season and that perception has been eviscerated with the speed of Mane’s electric right-wing bursts.
Sadio Mane has scored 9 Premier League goals this season, more than any other Liverpool player.— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 2, 2017
What a signing! pic.twitter.com/2PUovmYikf
In Klopp’s heavy metal brand of footballl, the Senegalese has been the lead guitarist, striking the right chord with his athleticism and trickery adding a dynamic element to the league’s leading attack.
Operating on the right side of a 4-3-3, Mane has freedom to roam all over the pitch and constantly swaps positions in a way which makes him impossible to track. To entertain the analogy further, he’s somewhat of an Angus Young for this Liverpool side.
His limitless energy and perpetual movement has formed a crucial attacking axis as he’s created room for others to flourish while also carrying the biggest goal threat. He’s harmonised superbly with Roberto Firmino, Adam Lallana and Philippe Coutinho to help fire the Reds into second.
Without him available until at the earliest February 11 for the visit of Tottenham, Klopp will be forced to either dip into the transfer market for an imitation or into a tactical switch.
Now, with Daniel Sturridge back fit and Coutinho soon to follow, it may be enough to dissuade the Reds boss from parting with any cash in this transfer window. But if he does decide to test the market, then Spartak Moscow’s Quincy Promes could fill the void.
Like Mane, the 24-year-old is a skilful, direct winger with a growing maturity and possesses a versatility which Klopp’s diligent man-management style can sculpt into an ideal replacement. However, with a reported £25m (Dh112m) price tag, Klopp may opt to tinker with his formation.
In effect, Liverpool could operate a diamond in midfield with Sturridge playing alongside Firmino up top. It would see Coutinho occupy the No10 position which he has thrived in, while Divock Origi provides an added option for one of the forward berths.
Fortunately for Klopp, he is blessed with fluid and flexible forwards and the likes of Lallana and Georginio Wijnaldum are capable of playing further forward. There’s also the option of promoting from within as promising youngster Sheyi Ojo is a raw but talented alternative to Mane.
Liverpool have shown already this season that they have a squad deep enough to contend with key absentees. Coutinho’s recent spell on the sidelines is a fine example of that.
Klopp has options, there’s really no need for a Mane clone.
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