Has Sadio Mane become too selfish for Liverpool's good?
By the end of the 2016-17 season, Sadio Mane had become Liverpool’s poster boy. The Reds weren’t winning games he didn’t play in. Deemed the ultimate mercenary by fans. With his teammates backing, he was voted the club’s Player’s Player of the Year and Liverpool Player of the Year. He couldn’t have asked for a better debut season.
2016-17 was barely cold in the ground when a new sensation arrived and stole Mane’s shine. Mohamed Salah signed from Roma and incinerated the Anfield stage. Mind you, Mane produced more in 2017-18 than he did in his first year at Liverpool. His 20 strikes meant he’d scored seven better than his remarkable first year. Still, it was a performance that paled in comparison to his new colleague who had rained 24 goals more. No questions asked, the Egyptian snatched Mane’s pair of awards and added plenty more to it. It was a better debut season that Mane or in fact any other Liverpool player in history could’ve mustered.
As the Premier League showered accolades on Liverpool’s ruthless attacking triumvirate, not many might’ve noticed this interesting fact – Mane was the least prolific of the trio. Third in the pecking order, the Senegalese was seven shy of Roberto Firmino’s goal haul. The new season presented him the opportunity to up his tally among his mates. Who can blame him for grabbing it greedily?
Being among the league's most humongous outfit, Liverpool’s extravaganza in the transfer market didn’t surprise many. They brought in competition for almost everyone in the squad – including the anointed attacking trio who pitched 91goals between them. The acquisition of Xherdan Shaqiri meant the wide men – Salah and Mane, had to maintain consistency. Daniel Sturridge also arrived from loan looking in better shape than ever. Firmino had to sit tight. For the team, the new arrivals boosted their potential immeasurably. For the players, however, it might’ve encouraged them to raise the bar of their personal goals.
Mane might’ve raised his stock the highest. Soon as the season’s whistle blasted, the Senegal skipper came out of the blocks firing from all barrels. It’s kinda paying off. He’s already struck the net four times in five League appearances. Meanwhile, his poaching best mates have only managed the same number between them. Albeit, it’s looking like there’s a sinister consequence of Mane’s improved prolificacy.
Unlike Salah and Firmino, Mane is the standout member of the three-man gang who hasn’t registered an assist since the start of the campaign. Given we’re only six games in, that shouldn’t worry anybody. Yet, Mane’s body language in the past couple of matches speaks volumes of a brazen attacker who unwittingly dares to defy the status-quo for the good of his personal agenda.
The game against Tottenham at Anfield put the situation under sunlight. Unsmiling and unapologetic, Mane, on more than one occasion chose to be overly selfish with the ball in the danger area. He didn’t add to his goal summation and neither did Liverpool. Although the Reds beat Spurs, fans were livid with the 26-year-old. Klopp looked even more outraged on the touchline.
Understandably, it takes a measure of selfishness for an attacker to score goals. Some would consider it sheer stupidity and lack of confidence for a striker to see a clear goalscoring opportunity but fails to seize it. Yet again, everyone loves the man who provides assists. They point is crystal: a team that fails to work as a collective unit is soon disintegrated and would surely bottle any chance of silverware. Even outsiders can tell, Liverpool doesn’t want that. Not after six years without a trophy.
Smoke doesn’t go without fire. Being a decent gentleman, Salah has come out to defend Mane, stating there’s perfect harmony between the forwards at the club. We can take his word for it or we can believe what’s staring us right in the face. Klopp must banish the devils of self-centeredness before it creeps up on his team through Sadio Mane.