Sadio Mane is reportedly on £350k a week at Bayern Munich with Mohamed Salah believed to be on the same initial terms after extending his contract with Liverpool.
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Liverpool have been badly stung when being forced to sell key players in the past. When seeing the likes of Xabi Alonso, Fernando Torres and Luis Suarez depart, the Reds have inevitably been left weaker as supporters were left desolate as they faced up to the reality that their once great club couldn’t match their elite stars’ ambitions.
Stagnating after wasting the big-money incoming funds from their sales on the likes of Alberto Aquilani, Andy Carroll, Lazar Markovic and Mario Balotelli, there were fears history could repeat itself when Philippe Coutinho pushed for the exit door amid interest from Barcelona in 2017.
Yet fortunately for the club, their recruitment team has improved remarkably in recent years with former sporting director Michael Edwards playing a crucial role. When losing Coutinho , Liverpool opted for quality over quantity when spending the club-record £142m transfer fee, bringing in Virgil van Dijk, Alisson and Fabinho with such funds. As crucial as the Brazilian had been at Anfield, his exit would prove to be a blessing in disguise.
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Financing the spine of Jurgen Klopp ’s new Liverpool, Coutinho’s exit enabled the Reds to push on from a club just grateful to qualify for the Champions League for only the second time since 2009 to a side capable of actually winning the European Cup. And while they’d lose the final to Real Madrid in 2018, they would indeed emerge as Champions of Europe 12 months later before winning the Premier League, FIFA Club World Cup, European Super Cup, FA Cup and League Cup in the years that followed.
As a result of such success, Liverpool suddenly became a side their players did not want to leave. They had the power when shaping the future of their side, with Coutinho remaining the last Reds player to agitate for an exit under Klopp’s watch. Until the eve of their most recent Champions League final appearance, that is.
Out of contract in the summer of 2023, Liverpool had planned to hold talks with Sadio Mane ’s representation regarding a new deal once the season ended. However, the Senegalese, having already attracted interest from Bayern Munich, had already made his mind up that he wanted a new challenge, having won every major honour going at Anfield, and to depart for pastures new.
With Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino also out of contract in 2023 and all three the wrong side of 30, along with Divock Origi leaving on a Bosman transfer and Takumi Minamino allowed to leave after two and a half years on the Anfield fringes, sporting director Julian Ward had already been tasked with refreshing the Reds attack in 2022. As a result, Luis Diaz was brought in six months early in January while a compensation package was agreed with Fulham for Fabio Carvalho.
Whether the revamp would have ended there if Mane had stayed put for another season at least, only Reds bosses will be able to answer. If it had, while Diaz would be a like-for-like alternative for the winger, Liverpool would have still have left with three ageing forwards on big wages and some difficult decisions to make regarding who to retain.
The Reds wanted to keep Salah and on the face of it, wanted to keep Mane too. But it would have been a delicate situation negotiating with both players when they would have both wanted highest-earner status. Meanwhile, revamping the attack for a younger front-line would have been easier said than done to achieve if both African forwards were prepared to stay put.
Liverpool are not afraid of tough decisions and let Gini Wijnaldum leave at the end of his contract in 2021, with the Reds unwilling to meet his demands with the Dutchman the wrong side of 30. That decision was admittedly controversial at the time, but would have paled in comparison to a potential Salah or Mane Bosman exit, with the Reds, in all likelihood, choosing to retain both until the end of their contracts rather than cashing in in 2022.
Considering Salah’s new contract is said to be £350k a week, with the potential to pocket upwards of £400k a week due to the incentivised structure, and Mane reportedly on the same basic wage at Bayern Munich, it seems unlikely Liverpool would have been able to keep both on such terms. As a result, while negotiating with the pair there was always a likelihood that one would have to have been let go at the expense of the other.
Yet by Mane taking his future into his own hands and wanting a fresh challenge, Reds bosses have avoided this contract game of cat and mouse. They were spared from any responsibility for him leaving the club without getting caught up on sentimentality, with the Senegalese’s exit ultimately making life a lot easier for Liverpool bosses. In truth, by wanting out he has done the club a massive favour.
Eradicating any tough decisions regarding the future of the Reds’ attack, Mane’s exit left Liverpool with no choices to make. He wanted to leave so the club would sell. His decision to leave left the club free to quickly move for a replacement, signing Darwin Nunez from Benfica in a deal which could be worth up to a club-record £85m to continue this attacking revamp. Needs must.
And with no new contract for the forward to consider when negotiating fresh terms with Salah, it was ultimately easier for the club to agree a new deal with the Egyptian. After all, only nine days passed between Mane completing his move to Bayern and his fellow forward putting pen to paper on the biggest contract in Liverpool history.
While in the past the exit of key players at Anfield has been a hindrance, Mane’s was one that needed to happen for the sake of the club’s long-term future. And while no-one at Anfield would have wanted him to leave, despite the uneasy feeling in the fanbase his cryptic messaging before leaving created, like Coutinho before him, the forward’s Liverpool departure looks to have been a blessing in disguise.
Such a claim would have felt impossible just a few short years ago. While the Reds have waved off a legend, the fact they are in a stronger position from doing so shows exactly how far they’ve progressed with Klopp at the helm.