Lionel Messi claim is being justified as Sadio Mané approaches his Liverpool best again



Sadio Mané, by his own admission, didn’t enjoy the best of seasons last time out. That’s despite scoring 11 times in the Premier League and coming up with seven assists.

These numbers would be celebrated for most wide men in the division, but Mané is an elite forward and has higher expectations for himself.

With the return of fans to stadiums, Mané seems to be back to his old self, scoring three times in the five Premier League games so far this season. Don’t be shocked if the forward gets back to the levels of what we have all seen from him in the past few years.

The Senegal international is a world class forward, with Lionel Messi once voting for Mané when using his right as Argentina captain to vote for who should win the Ballon d’Or.

Mohamed Salah takes most of the headlines at Liverpool, and rightfully so given the sheer amount of goals the Egyptian scores, but this could be a good thing for Mané as he goes under the radar in the Reds attack. In any case, when Messi recognises your influence, you must be doing something right.

It has been said that Mané may be past his best, and that the days of hitting 22 or even 18 goals in the Premier League — like he did in previous seasons — may be behind him.

However, the forward has recorded the most shots so far in the Premier League this season, as he reaps the rewards of Virgil van Dijk being back in the side.

Van Dijk offers a strong defensive presence that allows Andy Robertson to venture forward, as we have seen in previous seasons.

Without the Netherlands captain there last campaign, Robertson had to be more reserved in going forward and linking up with Mané on that left side, as he had to take care of his defensive duties to a greater extent.

Not only does Mané benefit from Van Dijk’s defensive capabilities, but he now also has to option to spin in behind and receive those balls over the top from the Dutchman — with the Champions League goal in the Allianz Arena against Bayern Munich the archetypal example.

With the return of crowds in stadiums, Mané gets to hear his name sung by 50,000 people at Anfield, and this would be enough to motivate anyone on even the toughest of days.

In the 3-0 victory at Elland Road against Leeds, Liverpool recorded 30 shots on goals and Mané hit a third of them. Perhaps last season, if this was the case, Mané’s head may have dropped at not being able to find the net in the previous nine attempts.

But when someone of Mané’s quality takes so many shots, he is more than likely to score, and that is exactly what happened as he converted with his tenth and final attempt on goal.

Scoring goals is what all forwards are in their sides to do and nothing breeds confidence like this. You can see that Mané is growing in confidence as the season goes on as he is more willing to stand up his man and go past him — much like he did while playing at his best, showcasing the kind of form that even caught Messi’s eye.

Much has been said about the trident on the right side of Liverpool’s attack this season, with Salah linking especially well with Trent Alexander-Arnold and whoever is occupying that right-sided role in the midfield trio.

As teams are unable to adequately cover the whole of the pitch in a defensive situation, Mané is finding himself in acres of space when the ball is out on the right side with Salah and co.

Mané saw the benefits of this with his goal in the 2-0 win over Burnley at Anfield, and he will be hoping to find himself in this situation many more times this season. He has the quality to convert the chances: just ask Lionel Messi.





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