Sadio Mane’s future being in doubt is a bigger problem for Liverpool than many of their fans might realise.
The Senegal international is seemingly seeking a move away from Anfield just after being one of the main men keeping Liverpool’s quadruple hopes alive in a challenging end to the 2021/22 season.
Mane scored nine goals in Liverpool’s final 14 fixtures, including an important equaliser away to Manchester City in a league game, before a brace against them in the FA Cup semi-final shortly afterwards. He also scored in both legs of the Champions League semi-final win over Villarreal, while, by contrast, Mohamed Salah went missing during that all-important period.
In the same run of 14 games towards the business end of the season, Salah only scored three goals – two in a 4-0 win over Manchester United, and one against Wolves on the final day of the season. But for some terrific goalkeeping heroics from Thibaut Courtois, he may well have added to that and delivered the Champions League for Liverpool, but it’s not like he went into that big game in the form of his life – far from it.
Salah turns 30 this month and probably can’t be relied on to help the club recover post-Mane all by himself. With Manchester City already adding Erling Haaland and Julian Alvarez to their forward line, the Reds surely need to respond with a major investment of their own in attack.
Christopher Nkunku the ideal transfer for Liverpool?
If there’s anyone out there right now who looks a perfect fit for Liverpool’s needs, it’s Christopher Nkunku, who has just enjoyed the season of his life with RB Leipzig.
The France international contributed a remarkable 35 goals and 14 assists in all competitions for Leipzig in 2021/22, largely playing in a new-look central role after previously operating out wide and in other midfield positions in his career.
At the age of 24, Nkunku looks to be approaching his peak and will surely be hungry to win big trophies after only winning one domestic cup with his current club, and barely featuring for Ligue 1 title victories with Paris Saint-Germain earlier in his career.
Fabrizio Romano has written exclusively for CaughtOffside to make it clear that a “crazy” offer will be needed for Leipzig to sell their star player, but it’s time for Liverpool to start acting more like the big club they’ve become.
It’s fair enough that LFC tend to be picky about who they splash the cash on, with Virgil van Dijk their biggest purchase by some distance, but it proved an absolute game-changer for the club when he joined. Others like Salah and Mane were not super expensive, but they arrived at a time when the club were still trying to establish themselves as top four contenders, rather than genuinely being one of the best teams on the planet.
In the end, Liverpool were not far away from a quadruple, but there were plenty of narrow wins in the Premier League (2-1 over bottom-half teams Southampton and Aston Villa, and 1-0 over Newcastle towards the end of the season) that shows just how much of an impact Mane’s departure combined with Salah’s dip in form could have on this team.
In Nkunku, they could replace Mane with another hard-working and intelligent player up front, who looks like being able to contribute 20+ goals a season for the next five years or so.
There’s plenty to admire about how Liverpool do their business, but a ruthless streak is also needed as soon as possible, or this golden era is going to become remembered for how close they came to winning league titles and European Cups, rather than for actually going all the way and lifting these trophies.