This article is part of Football FanCast’s Opinion series, which provides analysis, insight and opinion on any issue within the beautiful game, from Paul Pogba’s haircuts to League Two relegation battles…
Sadio Mane cost Southampton just £10m.
When you think of the Senegal international’s excellent record at St Mary’s – he hit 25 goals and recorded 14 assists in 75 games – that simply has to go down as one of the best deals in the Saints’ history.
Of course, inflation makes that deal seem a lot cheaper than it would now be in modern day football, but it was still a phenomenal piece of deadline day business by the south coast club – they even grabbed Toby Alderweireld on the same day.
Surely, one would assume that a deal like the Mane one won’t be seen again for a while at St Mary’s, right?
Well, Ralph Hasenhuttl may have emulated the feat with a shrewd piece of business back in the summer.
£15m was sent in the direction of Standard Liege to secure the services of exciting young forward Moussa Djenepo in what seemed a relatively low-key move for an unknown quantity.
The 21-year-old has enjoyed a brilliant start to his Southampton career since arriving in the Premier League, scoring two goals in three league appearances for the club.
You may be thinking: “Hang on, how are you even mentioning Djenepo and Mane in the same breath?”
But Hasenhuttl himself even told the BBC: “He has a few qualities we saw when Sadio was here at Southampton. He is very quick and his movements are phenomenal.”
Some supporters on Twitter have even made the comparison:
Djenepo is mane in disguise im convinced #SaintsFC
— Jamie (@jamie17saints) September 14, 2019
Don’t want to overhype too soon but Djenepo’s cameo reminded me so much of Mane’s debut up at Arsenal in the league cup. Quick feet, blazing pace and constantly drawing fouls. Exciting introduction to English football and I can’t wait to see what more he’s capable of #saintsfc
— Dan Jarvis (@danjarvisSFC91) August 17, 2019
Excited for Djenepo, watching his highlights he’s got great change of pace and dribbling – reminds me of mane in some sense so should be an ace signing for £10m.
— Tom Adams (@Tom_Adams9) June 5, 2019
Think Djenepo needs to be a starter every week, has that directness we’ve lacked since Mane left #saintsfc
— Matt Ashley (@MattAshley1) September 14, 2019
Won’t claim to have any idea about Djenepo, if that’s even how you spell it, however I’ve done the YouTube scout over the last few days. Looks promising. Seems like he has the Sadio Manè diamond in the rough kind of look about him with his skill, speed and directness #saintsfc
— Oriol (@RalphHasenhuttl) May 28, 2019
We’ve finally found a Mane replacement, I’m in love with Djenepo #SaintsFC
— lewis (@LewKegg) September 14, 2019
On the basis that Mane is a Champions League winning, UEFA Super Cup and Premier League Golden Boot winning forward, whereas Djenepo is an inexperienced, unknown quantity, you’d be forgiven for thinking the comparison is premature.
However, if you were to compare their early Premier League careers and their playing styles, there is definitely reason to suggest that they are similar players with comparable attributes, both signed for a bargain price.
Both men tend to line up on the left wing, where they enjoy cutting in onto their stronger right foot and having a go at goal – it should also be noted that they are both rapid, direct and nimble players.
Also, both men arrived on these shores with relatively low profiles, with Mane only previously dazzling in the not-so-well-documented Austrian league for RB Salzburg where he hit 45 goals in 87 appearances, whereas Djenepo found some decent form in Belgium with Standard Liege.
That both players moved to the Premier League at relatively young ages – Mane was 22 and Djenepo just 21 – adds another weight to the comparison.
To quickly emphasise Djenepo’s potential, it took Mane 13 Premier League games to score two goals, with his first coming against Stoke on the 25th October 2014, and the next coming against Crystal Palace on Boxing Day of that same year; Djenepo matched that total in just his first three games.
They haven’t just been tap-ins either – far from it.
The Mali international scored an absolutely delightful goal on his second appearance for the Saints, nonchalantly curling an effort into the top-right corner against Brighton to hand his side the lead and ultimately the win.
In his next appearance, Djenepo scored the only goal of the game to grab another three points against Sheffield United with yet another wonderful individual effort.
The young forward twisted away from Oliver Norwood with an extravagant piece of skill, before bearing down on goal and dropping a shoulder to work the angle – he then finished with precision into the bottom left corner.
It goes without saying that the 8-cap international has a long way to go if he wants to emulate Mane’s achievements in the game, although the early signs are extremely encouraging.
Southampton would surely have to work a miracle to repeat the genius of the Mane deal, wouldn’t they?
Perhaps Hasenhuttl has already overseen that masterstroke.