‘Mentality monster’ Sadio Mane is quietly taking his place among football’s elite

Jürgen Klopp started an Anfield revolution when he joined Liverpool. With two contrasting Sadio Mané goals on Saturday, it was the spirit of glorious evolution which kept the quadruple dream alive.

Here was the sublime merger of Klopp’s early template as Liverpool manager with the growth he demanded in the aftermath of the Champions League win of 2019 and Premier League title of 2020.

The image of Mané scurrying after a nervous Zack Steffen may have been defining in this semi-final.

Yes, the miscalculation of the City keeper made it avoidable as Mane’s ricochet doubled Liverpool’s advantage, but Klopp was quick to point out it was a forced error six years in the making. His players – Mané especially – are programmed for such interventions. Liverpool have long been the world’s ultimate high-pressing team. Here was the ultimate high-pressing goal executed by the ultimate high-pressing striker.

Mané’s second was crafted after Thiago – who had City on a string throughout the first half – completed a prolonged passing sequence.

It was among the reasons the Liverpool coach considered the first 45 minutes the most complete he has overseen, Mané providing the emphatic finishing touch.

This goal was not created by pressing, nor counter-pressing, but by the kind of skill and subtlety which City have made their forte. At that stage, Liverpool were dismantling City at their own game, inspired by a senior leader who has long been considered one of their most important recruits of the modern era.

“Sadio made an incredible game,” Klopp said. “The first goal he scored, I love it – the acceleration, the desire to get there. That was great. And the other one was proper football until the final pass and the chip and volley.” What other player in world football is having such influence on the international and European stage?

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