Sadio Mane's former coach made bold Lionel Messi and Neymar claim that's coming true
The Senegal forward has become Jurgen Klopp’s go-to guy in recent weeks, with 10 goals in his last 10 matches.
Mane’s importance has been exaggerated by the profligacy of Mohamed Salah, who has fired blank in six consecutive matches – his longest run without a goal for Liverpool.
That trend among Liverpool’s electric wide forwards continued on Wednesday night, with Salah conceding the limelight to his team-mate, who has become more reliable in front of goal of late.
It was Mane who grabbed Liverpool’s sole goal in last year’s devastating final loss to Real Madrid, and the 26-year-old has an impressive record of 13 goals and three assists in 19 Champions League games.
The explosive winger’s rise has come unexpectedly, despite telltale signs of his capability at Red Bull Salzburg, where made 77 goal contributions in 87 games, and Southampton.
A £34million move to Liverpool in June 2016 was first seen as reflecting the pound sterling’s diminishing value, but Mane has, alongside Tottenham’s Hueng-min Son, become the most established goalscoring winger in the Premier League.
It has been a rise not many foresaw, but his former coach in Senegal, Mady Toure, was never in doubt.
Shortly after Mane signed for Southampton in 2014, Toure told The Guardian: “I’ve known him since he was a kid so to see him doing so well is fantastic.
“Today we talk about Messi and Neymar but honestly I don’t think these players are as good as Sadio Mané.”
Those words may be more on the hyperbolic side of things, but the echelons in which Mane is now regarded is not far off.
“But I don’t think his development is finished yet,” Toure added.
“Sadio still has a long way to go before reaching his peak. Now he needs a really good coach to take him to the new level because his possibilities are enormous.”
That duty first came to Ronaldo Koeman, who rinsed a goal every three games out of Mane in two years at St Mary’s – a terrific record for a non-striker at a mid-table club. Klopp has since taking him to the next level.
Speaking about Mane’s move to Southampton, Toure continued: “Sadio refused to play because he wanted to leave and that’s when Southampton came in.
“It’s a great opportunity for him to show what he can do and I can assure you he will be a revelation in the Premier League.
“But I’m sure he will not spend too long at Southampton because there are lots of clubs in Europe who would like to buy him.
“When Sadio went to Metz, I said he wouldn’t spend very long with them and it was the same when he went to Red Bull. He has the talent to play in the Champions League.”
Not only does Mane have the talent, he has goals to match.