Football Features

“His performance doesn’t drop” – Versatile Sadio Mane keeps Liverpool title hopes alive amid doubts over his future

By Harry Edwards

Published: 22:49, 10 May 2022

Former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher hailed Sadio Mane for his versatility after the Senegalese forward scored his side’s winner against Aston Villa on Tuesday night.

The Reds went into the game trailing Premier League leaders Man City by three points after their draw with Tottenham Hotspur at the weekend and knew that only a win would keep their title hopes truly alive.

Things got off to a really rocky start though as Douglas Luiz put Villa 1-0 up within three minutes, tapping in from close range after his initial header had been saved by Alisson. The lead lasted a matter of minutes with Joel Matip equalising, but it was a test of Liverpool’s resolve.

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They were made to work hard for it by Steven Gerrard’s side but the winner did eventually come from Sadio Mane, who beautifully beat Emiliano Martinez with a deft header from Luis Diaz’s cross. It was Mane’s 15th Premier League goal of the season, becoming the third Liverpool player to hit that milestone in 2021/22 alongside Mohamed Salah and Diogo Jota – only Man City in 2013/14 had previously had three players to score 15+ goals in the same season.

The goal comes just days after Mane was being linked with a move away from Liverpool, with Bayern Munich reportedly interested in signing the Senegalese forward.

Before the game, former Liverpool midfielder Jamie Redknapp said: “He’s a vital component in what Liverpool have done over the years.

“You cannot let this guy go. He’s so important, he’s has important as any of them.”

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And those sentiments were echoed by Carragher, who spoke in more detail of Mane’s ability to put in top performances wherever he is played across the front three.

Mane started the season in his favoured left wing position, forming Liverpool’s terrifying front three alongside Mohamed Salah and Diogo Jota – with Roberto Firmino injured. But the January arrival of Luis Diaz saw Mane shifted into the middle of the pitch, as the Colombian’s preferred position was the left wing.

But while some players’ performances may have slipped with a position change, Mane has thrived, scoring 12 goals in 22 games since Diaz rocked up at Anfield.

“I love him, absolutely love him to bits and not just because he’s a great player and what he’s done for Liverpool,” Carragher told Sky Sports of Mane.

“I wouldn’t say he’s sacrificed himself but he initially came on the right wing – Salah came in so then he had to move to the left. He’s then on the left, fantastic on the left – Diaz comes in, now he goes centre forward.

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“He’s always moving for someone else but his performance doesn’t drop. He still produces now. The other players are great players, every one of those five attacking players, but to ask those players to play in different positions within the front three.

“Asking Salah to play on the left wing, asking Diaz to play through the middle consistently for the time being, they probably wouldn’t be at their best. But it doesn’t seem to matter where he plays in that front three, they get exactly the same from him.”

Carragher won’t be alone in hoping Mane ignores the allure of Bayern Munich and unlimited Bundesliga titles. But the Senegalese forward joked after the game that he has been happier at Liverpool.

“Yeah sure, when we won the trophies I think I was more happier,” he said.

“I’m just trying to enjoy every moment and try to score and assist for my teammates. I think it’s all about the team, without the team I am nothing, so I thank the boys for making it easier for me.

“I’m obviously very happy.”