Yesterday’s hero-to-villain performance against Sunderland wasn’t the send-off Sadio Mane was hoping for ahead of his AFCON duties with Senegal.
The summer signing put Liverpool into the lead with just 20 minutes remaining against a plucky Sunderland side but squandered that margin in the dying embers of the match – giving away a penalty for one of the most blatant handballs you’ll ever see, which Jermain Defoe confidently converted to level the scores.
Not the best game to day for the team I'm sorry for the handball and see you all soon @LFC
— Sadio Mané (@SadioMane19) January 2, 2017
Mane’s even apologised on Twitter for his role in the 2-2 draw, but the stats suggest Liverpool fans should be much more grateful than derogatory about the 24-year-old’s performance.
Indeed, as our infographic shows, the African attacker not only got on the scoresheet but also created four chances for his team-mates, whipped in four crosses and completed five successful dribbles. Perhaps most impressively, his pass success rate was 85% – a phenomenal return for someone who predominantly operates in tight spaces in the final third.
This all makes us wonder whether Liverpool can sustain their title charge, especially after dropping two points yesterday, in the absence of their top scorer.
It’s not only Mane’s impressive output this season – nine goals and four assists – but also his defence-stretching pace and dynamism on the right-hand side that has made him such an integral cog in the Reds’ attack. Although it may have ended with one ill-thought act, Mane’s performance against Sunderland once again underlined how important he is to the Liverpool cause.
Accordingly, Jurgen Klopp may have little choice but to sign a replacement in January, who can cover Mane during his absence until potentially after February 5th – the date of the AFCON final.
One name to have lingered around the Merseyside outfit in recent months is Quincy Promes, whose Spartak Moscow contract includes a release clause around the £20million mark according to Mirror Football. Quick, capable of playing across the front line, relatively cheap and enjoying a good season in Russia, he could be the perfect mid-season solution for the Reds.