2 Aug 2016

Nicol raves: 'Wonderful' £125k-a-week attacker can be 'signing of the season'. Liverpool transfer success?

After seven appearances for Liverpool, 'wonderful' new signing Sadio Mane is still waiting to record his first goal or assist for the club, but despite his paucity in front of goal, Reds legend Steve Nicol is convinced that Mane can go on to become one of the best signings of the summer.

Speaking to ESPN over the weekend, Nicol - who won five league titles with Liverpool - enthused:

“When he gets the ball at his feet, you can’t take your eyes off him. I’m hoping he’s going to turn out to be the signing of the season".

On the subject of Mane's quality, Nicol added:

“When you’ve got a guy like Mane, if I’m playing centre-forward, I’m getting myself in the box because this guy is going to find me.”

At Southampton, this may, at times, have been true, but for Liverpool, Mane has failed on many occasions to play good final balls into the club's attacking players, and that is (IMO) a concern.

Of course, it's only pre-season, so maybe Mane will live up to Nicol's billing when the season begins. The reality is he'll have to perform quickly as he's carrying around the burden of a massive, inflated transfer fee.

Rip-off transfer fee aside, there's no denying that Mane is a potentially exciting player, but whether he gets the chance to express himself fully remains to be seen. Like all players, the Senegalese will have his defensive responsibilities, but the last thing he needs is to be overburdened by excessive running/pressing.

Mane's main priority should be scoring/creating goals, but if Klopp forces him to prioritise defensive duties, it'll be Henrikh Mkhitaryan all over again. In March, Mkhitaryan slammed Klopp for restricting his creativity:

"Klopp was a football madman: pressure and counter-attack. [Thomas] Tuchel changed our lives. Now we command the game and I have more freedom to attack. I now make myself more useful.”

In a separate interview, Mkhitaryan added:

"Under Klopp, we were playing more powerful, more pressing. [With] Tuchel we keep the ball [and] pass it more, and play very offensive football. Because of the changes I got a lot of confidence."

I'd wager that one of either Mane or Wijnaldum will ultimately end up disliking Klopp's style of football, which will consequently have a knock-on negative impact on their performance. Time will tell who it'll be, but right now, neither player appears to prospering in Klopp's system.

Again, though, it's only pre-season, which is a meaningless measure of a player's overall ability and/or progress. Roll on the new season...

^ Reportedy on £125k-a-week


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