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3 May 2017

World-Class Series [No10]: Sadio Mane (Salzburg, Southampton, Liverpool, Senegal). Is he 'world-class'?

Sadio Mane is one of Liverpool's stars of the season, and according to Jordan Henderson, the £34m signing is 'world-class'. Is this true, though?

World Class: My Definition

Before a player can be deemed 'world-class', he/she must have a Specific, Measurable Impact (SMI) at all three levels of football, and push his/her team to relative success at all three levels.

The Three Levels

* Domestic: National leagues.

* European: Champions League, Europa League, or equivalent.

* World: International - qualifying and/or tournaments.

Relative Success: OAL and SMI

* What is the the team's Optimum Achievement Level (OAL) in a given competition? In other words, based on historical performance, what is the absolute best the team can realistically expect to achieve?

* Causation: The player's causal contribution to his team's OAL. To what extend did the player in question help the team to meet its OAL? But for the player under consideration, would the team still have achieved its OAL?

* A variety of objective, position-specific criteria should be used when assessing the SMI of players. For example, for attacking players: Goals; assists; conversion rate; key passes; shot-assists; passing accuracy etc. For defenders: goals conceded; blocks; aerial duels won; tackle success rate etc.

* Players in inferior teams are still capable of being 'world class' as long as their SMI is such that they excel, and push their team to achieve its OAL (though in all cases, SMI at all three levels is required).

SADIO MANE: WORLD CLASS?

* SMI at Domestic Level: LFC/Southampton: 60 goals/assists 104 apps (One every 130 mins). 2015: Broke the Prem record for fastest every hat-trick (2 mins 56 seconds). 2017: PFA 'Team of the Year'.

- Red Bull Salzburg: 69 goals/assists in 73 apps (One every 84 mins). 2014: Won the League and Cup double. Mane's 41 goals/assists that season absolutely integral to RBS winning two trophies.

- Domestic Total: 129 goals/assist in 177 apps (One every 103 mins).

* SMI at European Level: Southampton: 3 goals/assists in 3 Europa League qualifiers. Red Bull Salzburg: 0 goals/assists in 5 Champions League qualifiers.

* SMI at International level: Senegal: 23 goals/assists in 43 apps (One every 141 mins). World Cup/AFCON Qualifiers: 19 goals/assists in 31 apps (One every 136 mins). AFCON 2017: 5 goals/assists in 6 qualifying games. Without Mane's goals/assists, Senegal wouldn't have qualified. Currently Senegal's 6th highest goalscorer of all time.

* Senegal OAL: World Cup: Qualified only once in the team's history. AFCON: Qualified 12 times. Final x1 (2002). Semi-Finals x2 (2002 and 2006). Quarter-Finals x 7 (Only once in the last 11 years). OAL for World Cup = Qualification. OAL for AFCON - Quarter-finals.

* Conclusion: Domestic: Mane has a great goals/assist record, and his personal impact (41 G/A) is a major reason for Salzburg's league and Cup double win in 2014. In his two years at Southampton, the Saints improved their league position by one each season, culminating in a 6th place finish in 2016 (two places ahead of Liverpool). Mane has also hit the ground running at Liverpool, but his personal impact hasn't been enough to help the club win any trophies. That said, Mane's 19 goals/assists in 26 games have helped the Reds maintain a top four place.

- European: Mane hasn't really had the opportunity show his worth in Europe, but he failed to make any impact in Southampton's 5 Cl qualifiers, and couldn't push the Saints in the Champions League.

- International: Mane is forging an impressive international career, and he's clearly had a major impact during World Cup/AFCON qualifying campaigns. Plus, his goals/assists were integral to Senegal's qualification for the 2017 AFCON, at which he contributed a further 2 goals in the group stages to help the team into the quarter-finals. Couldn't push Senegal to qualification for the 2014 World Cup, though.

* Verdict: Not World-Class. Potentially WC. Just about meets the criteria for domestic SMI, but still needs to make an impact at European level. Also needs to have a greater impact at International level (i.e. pushing Senegal into the World Cup 2nd round/quarter-finals, and/or helping Senegal win the AFCON).




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