Mane leaves Liverpool: how we got here, how much Bayern would have to pay, what next


Mane leaves Liverpool: how we got here, how much Bayern would have to pay, what next

Wearing a red baseball cap and a Liverpool scarf around his neck, Sadio Mane waved to his admiring crowd during Sunday’s parade on an open-topped bus through the city. In his eyes this was goodbye.

The Senegalese international, with just 12 months left on his contract, has decided it’s time to take on a new challenge this summer after six years at Anfield. Bayern Munich are the big favorites for his signature as they seek a replacement for the outgoing Robert Lewandowski.

It’s not the news Liverpool supporters wanted to hear after Saturday’s devastating Champions League final defeat by Real Madrid in Paris.

If Mohamed Salah lit the first half of the season, the second half belonged to Mane. He scored 13 of his 23 goals after returning to victory at the Africa Cup of Nations as Senegal victorious.

Mane thrived after being transferred to the role of number 9 by Jurgen Klopp following the arrival of Luis Diaz from Porto. Earlier this month his manager described him as “a machine” and “world class” after keeping the title race alive by bringing the winner home to Aston Villa.

He had previously made many important contributions, from equalizing at the Etihad to winning a brace against Manchester City in the FA Cup semi-finals. In the Champions League, he scored away at Benfica in the quarter-final first leg and then in both semi-finals against Villarreal.

Mane was Liverpool’s top performer in the second half of the season (Picture: PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

The 30-year-old has proven beyond a doubt that he still has so much to offer. He was a resurgent rather than a fading force.

Liverpool had not agreed an extension with him during the course of this season and knew there was always a risk that another member of Europe’s elite would take advantage of the situation and turn heads.

Whether Mané fulfills his wish and moves to the Bundesliga depends on the transfer fee Bayern are willing to pay. New sporting director Julian Ward will act tough. There are no guarantees.

Senior Anfield sources have dismissed suggestions in Germany that a deal could be struck for around €30m (£25.5m). Liverpool believe it would be better to keep Mane for another 12 months and lose him for nothing in 2023 rather than make deals for it. Liverpool value him at around €50m (£42.5m) and they would need to have a suitable replacement ready before approving a sale.

With Divock Origi joining AC Milan on a free transfer and Liverpool ready to hear offers for Japan international Takumi Minamino, they certainly need at least one other attacker. The arrival of Fabio Carvalho from Fulham will help but it would be wrong to expect too much too soon from the teenager.

Mane’s departure would mark the end of an era at Anfield. He was the first transformative signing of Klopp’s reign. The injection of quality he provided after his £34million move from Southampton in 2016 helped Liverpool return to Champions League glory. That gave them both the wealth and appeal to first attract Mohamed Salah and then Virgil van Dijk and Alisson.

After initially playing on the right flank, Mane showed his versatility by switching to the left flank to accommodate Salah. Now he’s just as successful at operating through the middle. Few possess his abilities.

The powerful three-pronged attack he formed with Salah and Roberto Firmino propelled Liverpool to glory in both the Champions League and Premier League.

Next month Salah will be 30 years old. Mane celebrated this milestone birthday in April and Firmino will be 31 in October. All three have contracts that run until 2023 and dealing with their contract situations has been something of a constant dilemma.

Mane played through the middle when Diaz came on (Picture: James Gill – Danehouse/Getty Images)

Renewing all three has always been unlikely, as it would mean tying up huge sums in wages until the mid-30s. Letting all three go in the same window would always be considered nonsensical given the challenge of wanting to replace them all at once. It had to be staggered.

Keeping Salah was the priority for the owners but talks stalled midway through this season. The Egyptian is not going anywhere this summer but if no compromise can be reached he will depart as a free agent at the end of 2022-23.

Klopp’s front has evolved over the past two years with the influence of first Diogo Jota and then Diaz. The old guard is already disbanded. Liverpool’s record in the transfer market is such that you would back their recruitment staff to identify another gem.

But if this is the end of the road for Mane at Anfield he will be sorely missed. Only 13 players in the club’s history have surpassed his 120-goal tally. He’s a legend for what he’s achieved at Liverpool, but sadness will also come from believing he has a lot more in the tank. This is not a small player looking for more involvement elsewhere, but the man who led the line in club football’s biggest game.

“Come back to me after Saturday and I’ll be sure to give you the best answer you want to hear. It’s special,” Mane smiled at media day at the AXA Training Center last week when asked about his future. “Then I’ll give you anything you want to hear.”

Mane didn’t stop speaking to the media after the Champions League final but he had already made up his mind. He has given Liverpool so much for so long that his legacy will remain intact. He is always welcomed with open arms. If Bayern get their man, Liverpool will have some big boots to fill.

(Photo: OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)

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