Scorer this Wednesday evening against Villarreal in the Champions League semi-final, Sadio Mané has become one of Jürgen Klopp’s favorite soldiers and is one of the contenders for the Ballon d’Or this season.
Yes, there are Ballon d’Or contenders who are not French. At 30, Sadio Mané is having one of the best seasons of his career. Fourth in 2019, after notably a victory in the Champions League, the Senegalese striker could well get on the podium this year, he who knew how to transform his game to evolve.
Mané takes up space
“He can play on the left, he can play in the middle. In both positions he is a world class player“Explains Jürgen Klopp, after Liverpool’s 2-0 victory against Villarreal. During this first leg semi-final, Sadio Mané was once again established at the forefront of the attack. A paying choice since it was launched in depth in the axis by Mo Salah that the former FC Metz made the break for the Reds (55th). After the meeting, the German coach wanted to salute the evolution of his player, who arrived in the summer of 2016 in the Mersey.
“He started for us here at Liverpool on the right wing. Some people remember his goal at Arsenal, when it was his first goal. He cut inside and kicked the ball with his left foot into the opposite corner. Absolutely outstanding, I love itreveals Jürgen Klopp, admiringly. The former BVB coach, who arrived in the fall of 2015, is not indifferent to the arrival of Sadio Mané.
SEE ALSO – Mané, Salah, Firmino: Liverpool’s incredible attacking trio
“There are different ways to play for Sadio and sometimes we want him to fade a bit more, but today we wanted him to stay between the centre-backs even more, take them away and offer races behind. He has the skills for it…“says Jürgen Klopp. After playing for years on the left wing, unlike Mohamed Salah, the Senegalese is getting closer and closer to the Egyptian. This year, he has started 12 games as a striker, and 29 on his usual left wing.
A paid choice
Gradually, Sadio Mané starts at the forefront of the attack of the Reds, he who liked to transplant on his right foot from his left lane. Even play like a number 10, leaving the field open to Andrew Robertson on the side. And looking at the statistics, we understand why! When he starts in the axis, the former wisp of Southampton is decisive almost once per game. Nine goals and two assists in twelve games. Barely higher figures when he plays on the side since he culminates in eleven achievements and a single offering in … 29 meetings started on his left wing.
Figures illustrated in the Champions League. Sadio Mané started three games as a scorer: the first group match against Milan, the quarter-final first leg against Benfica, and therefore against Villarreal. An effective replacement since he planted twice, against the Portuguese and the Spaniards, in three games. Two goals in the axis is as much as in eight games started on the side. Since returning from the Africa Cup of Nations, the Senegalese has been in sparkling form with the Reds. He has planted eight times in his last twelve starts, including scoring twice against Leeds in the league on February 23 or another against Manchester City in the Cup on April 16. Two games started as a leading striker for the former Messin.
A not insignificant replacement
Since this winter, Sadio Mané has started eight times in the axis, out of 13 games. A change of position which occurs in particular after the arrival of Luis Diaz. The 25-year-old Colombian joined the Reds on January 30. With an express adaptation, he is the pure left winger. While the Salah / Mané / Jota trio was in place at the start of the season, with Roberto Firmino in particular in the rotation, it was necessary to make room for the new kid.
Three months after his arrival in England, the former FC Porto player has already played 19 games with his new club, in four different competitions. 19 matches including… 18 started on the left wing, the late wing of Sadio Mané. The 25-year-old Colombian, who has scored four goals since joining the Reds, has shaken up the hierarchy and the organization of this well-oiled machine.
On the way to the Ballon d’Or?
An unexpected change, but which benefits Sadio Mané and therefore the whole team. Especially since the Senegalese is not lost in the axis since he played in this position twice during the last African Cup of Nations. Winner of the competition with Senegal, the 30-year-old striker was voted best player of this CAN 2021 (disputed in 2022), in what may be the best season of his life.
Captain at the first major trophy in the history of Senegal, Sadio Mané can achieve a historic quadruple in club. This season, Liverpool have already won the English League Cup. The Reds are still in contention in three competitions. They will challenge the Blues again on May 14, in the FA Cup final this time. The Mersey players are still in the running in the Premier League, they who are only one point behind their rival Manchester City five days before the end of the championship. Finally, the Reds are once again in the last four of the most beautiful of European competitions and are heading for a new final, thanks to this 2-0 victory against Villarreal in the first leg, three years after their triumph in the cup at the big ears.
Already assured of a club trophy and an international cup, Sadio Mané is therefore among the contenders for the Ballon d’Or. But for his coach Jürgen Klopp, it is still too early to form an opinion. “If you’re not (Lionel) Messi or (Cristiano) Ronaldo you probably need to win the Champions League, which we haven’t done yet, so give us a few more weeks and we’ll see where we are“. See you on May 28, at the Stade de France, to take stock, a week after the last day of the Premier League.