Reports of a £34m (possibly rising to £36m) record deal between Liverpool and Southampton for winger Sadio Mané have been at the forefront of gossip columns and social media over the past few days as Mané seems set to become one of many to follow a path from the South Coast to Merseyside. Previous players to do so have had mixed success with the Reds: Adam Lallana, and Nathaniel Clyne have been impressive and claimed a starting spot under Jürgen Klopp, yet Dejan Lovren has done little to gain admiration from supporters while Rickie Lambert left before the former Borussia Dortmund manager walked through the doors.
Record signing Mané, who has already been replaced by Nathan Redmond at Southampton, would bring in an injection of pace that hasn’t been seen since the days of Raheem Sterling. The Englishman played flourished under Brendan Rodgers, along with Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez, as the Reds came 2nd in the Premier League.
Under Rodgers, Sterling often operated in a central position behind the ‘SAS’ partnership, however, when needed the winger was utilised in his favoured role in a 4-3-3 with Sturridge on the right and Suarez through the middle.
It’s likely Mané would fulfil a different role in Klopp’s 4-2-3-1 system at Liverpool. With Mané being brought in for his pace, to get the best out of him he needs to be employed on one of the wings. His hard-working ethic makes him equipped to deal with Klopp’s intensive pressing tactic while his ability to get in behind defences and break the lines with neat touches make him able to thrill in front of the Kop.
Yet, this signing does have its negatives. The consistent speculation about the future of Phillipe Coutinho will only increase as Mané comes in. PSG’s persistentent interest may result in Coutinho joining the French side with Liverpool and Klopp happy to trust in their new signing to replace the Brazilian.
It’s also hard to predict where he’ll play. The outlay of £30 million suggests he will be a regular, although Benteke, who cost the same, hasn’t been, but Mané doesn’t have a ‘best’ position. The Senegalese international operated behind the striker for the Saints last season yet flourished for Red Bull Salzburg on the wing. Being a star player at both clubs allowed him to dictate where he played, but at Liverpool, there will be plenty of competition. Firmino, Coutinho, and Lallana currently act as inverted play-makers switching positions when in possession of the ball while from right to left, Lallana, Firmino and Coutinho form a defensive three to press the full-backs and holding midfielders.
The new £30 million addition also suggests that Mané will be the only winger coming in this window as Klopp has decided to spend big on a marquee signing. But who else could have been brought to Anfield instead of Mané?
Ex-Borussia Dortmund manager Jürgen Klopp may have returned to his former club and taken their best player. Marco Reus was heavily linked when Klopp took the Liverpool job, yet his loyalty to Dortmund is something that is admired by many, especially after Robert Lewandowski, Mario Gotze, and Mats Hummels have all left the club for arch rivals Bayern Munich.
Reus would have been a more expensive purchase than Mané but would arrive with a world-class status while also knowing his manager well. The German international would also come with a wealth of experience having played for Germany, a Bundesliga winning team and having got to the Champions League final.
Reus would also join with the knowledge that he will only play in one position. A refined left winger by trade, Reus would provide both width and pace for the Reds, allowing Coutinho to play in his most preferred role behind the striker.
With his time at Bayern looking uncertain ahead of Carlo Ancelotti’s arrival, Gotze was linked heavily with Liverpool because of his connections with his former manager, Jürgen Klopp.
Gotze would join a number of current Liverpool players already of the ‘playmaker’ ilk, including Lallana, Coutinho, and Firmino. Yet, Gotze flourished under Klopp, creating 63 chances and scoring 9 goals in behind Robert Lewandowski.
In top form, Gotze would be one of the best playmakers available to Liverpool to sign but after mounting speculation of a move to Merseyside, the German squashed speculation by stating his desire to stay at the German champions.
It’s well known that Walcott has been out of favour at Arsenal but hardly anything was made of his time on the bench until the announcement of the England squad for Euro 2016. Walcott’s omission from the national team highlighted the lack of game time he’d had over the past season with foreign counterparts Mesut Özil, Alexis Sanchez and Olivier Giroud all being preferred over the Englishman.
Walcott, provided he’s in form, would bring a goal-scoring presence from the right wing while would also come at a cheaper price than Mané. The FA cup winner has a versatility enabling him to play as the last man or out on the right giving Klopp a variety of tactical options if needed.
Alike to Walcott, the Brazilian was out of favour at PSG for most of last season as Di Maria stole his position before he was able to shift Edison Cavani out the first team picture towards the end of the season, and is likely to be the subject of much speculation over the summer transfer window.
Links to Liverpool had begun long before the transfer window and the Brazilian would arrive at Liverpool with 13 goals in 32 starts to his name suggesting that he too, like Walcott, has a goal presence. Lucas has a stereotypical Brazilian flair and ability that would astonish the support from the Kop.