There was no shortage of football fans who were happy to see Sadio Mane in the top three candidates for the Ballon d’Or. It wasn’t because of his rags to riches story. While that can play a role, but Mane hardly lets anyone down with his performances on the pitch.
If there’s a club that knows about losing a player to Barcelona, it is Liverpool. They did lose Philippe Coutinho to the Catalans in the winter of 2018. While the move didn’t go down too well, Luis Suarez’s is still a permanent fixture in the Barcelona side. The Nou Camp based are no strangers to signing superstar players either.
Barcelona did sign Antoine Griezmann from Atletico Madrid this past summer. But Suarez’s time is slowly on the essence. His goalscoring numbers speak of a gradual decline in goals.
Since scoring 40 times in La Liga in the 2015-16 campaign, there has been a reduction. He had a tally of 29 goals in the 2016-17 season, scoring 25 times in the 2017-18 season. Last season, Suarez scored only 21 goals in La Liga. In the last three Champions League seasons, the Uruguayan has found the back of the net only five times.
Those aren’t very promising numbers for a striker who is now 32 and quickly approaching the last few years of his career. Mane isn’t a striker by any means, but it is Griezmann’s situation that makes for interesting reading.
He did play as a striker during his Atletico Madrid days. Out of the total 257 appearances he made for the Los Rojiblancos, 120 came playing up front. While playing there, the Frenchman got a tally of 69 goals and 25 assists. It shows that he can be Barca’s long-term option for playing as a striker.
The club’s pursuit of Neymar shows that they do need a left-winger. They need dynamism on the pitch- something Neymar can provide. But Mane does that more than Neymar does.
This season, Mane has had a hand in 15 goals in all competitions. He has completed 1.7 dribbles per game, completing 2 key passes per game too. Last season, Mane had a tally of 22 Premier League goals, playing 35 goals only. He was completing 1.3 key-passes per game, completing just as many dribbles too.
It shows how productive a player he is in the final third. None other than Lionel Messi himself recently was full of praise. The Argentine told reporters at the Ballon D’or ceremony (via ThisisAnfield):
“It’s a shame to see Mane finish in fourth place. But I think there have been a lot of great players this year. That’s why it was difficult to choose a particular player. But I chose Sadio Mane because he’s a player that I like.
“Mane achieved a great year that was exceptional for the entire Liverpool team. That’s why I chose him. I repeat, there were a lot of very great players this year, so the choice was difficult.”
It isn’t just last season that is worthy of praise, when it comes to Mane. Since joining the club from Southampton, Mane has been on the scoresheet 72 times in 144 games, racking up a tally of 29 assists as well. Those are very impressive numbers, considering that its the Premier League he plays in.
For a player who has come through the ranks at RB Salzburg and Metz, he has seen the lows and highs of the game. At the age of 27, he is at his peak or reaching very close to his peak. Liverpool aren’t a bad club for him at all, considering how Barcelona have done in the last three Champions League seasons. But the lure of a new culture can always take the best of players to Spain. In Mane’s case, no one ever knows either.