Mane’s re­lent­less and hum­ble master­class shows Liver­pool hunger for more honours

The Sene­gal striker mixes ath­leti­cism, drive and a lack of ego to epit­o­mise the at­ti­tude Klopp has in­stilled in his play­ers

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Total Football - By Oliver Brown CHIEF SPORTS WRITER

It is cu­ri­ous to re­call how, the first time Jur­gen Klopp set eyes on Sa­dio Mane, he de­cided: “I don’t have time for this.” Nor­mally a good judge of char­ac­ter, he was put off by the askew base­ball cap and the blond streak run­ning through his hair: af­fec­ta­tions, he feared, that would be too much trou­ble to tame. Fast-for­ward from that ini­tial meet­ing in Dort­mund, and it would be dif­fi­cult to iden­tify a player who more en­cap­su­lates the Klopp credo. His sec­ond goal against Chelsea, at the ex­pense of the doomed Kepa Ar­riz­a­bal­aga, was a minia­tur­ist study in the qual­i­ties that have made Liver­pool so re­lent­less: off-the-ball move­ment, the forc­ing of a fum­ble, the im­pla­ca­ble com­mit­ment to atone for even the slight­est er­ror.

With Klopp, it is al­ways about the phi­los­o­phy. Take his re­ac­tion to the ap­plause from Liver­pool’s bench when An­dreas Chris­tensen was sent off. “We never do that,” he snapped, to cue in­stant si­lence.

Mane dove­tails per­fectly with his vi­sion, as a No10 who re­sists cel­e­brat­ing too os­ten­ta­tiously and whose re­sponse to giv­ing the ball away is to win it back.

Klopp can have few con­cerns about Mane’s tow­er­ing per­for­mance breed­ing a sense of en­ti­tle­ment. When once he scored a de­ci­sive goal to de­feat Le­ices­ter, he headed straight to Liver­pool’s Al Rahma mosque to help clean bath­rooms. “He wanted to re­main dis­creet,” the res­i­dent imam said, as a video of the mo­ment sparked a fan frenzy. “He’s not a per­son look­ing for fan­fare. There’s no ar­ro­gance.”

This was like the mes­sage from Klopp to the Liver­pool sub­sti­tutes who cheered Chris­tensen’s dis­missal. Never crow.

Never sug­gest a su­pe­ri­or­ity com­plex or revel in oth­ers’ mis­for­tune. But not all their ri­vals buy into such a vir­tu­ous im­age. Just ask Frank Lam­pard, a win­ner of three Premier League ti­tles, who last sea­son tried to rile Klopp and his team by shout­ing: “Only league ti­tle you’ve ever won and you’re giv­ing it the big ’un.”

Di­rec­tion of play

Ad­mit­tedly, there can be some em­bel­lish­ment of the fa­bled “Liver­pool Way” un­der Klopp. “We are a dif­fer­ent kind of club,” he said this month, a lit­tle too smugly for some, as he sought to ar­gue that his club had a more fru­gal trans­fer pol­icy than most. Then, days later, he was spend­ing a com­bined £70mil­lion on Diogo Jota and Thi­ago Al­can­tara. Per­haps the true dif­fer­ence with Liver­pool’s ac­qui­si­tions lies in the im­me­di­acy of their im­pact. On his de­but, Thi­ago pro­vided 75 passes in 45 min­utes, more than any Chelsea player man­aged in the en­tire match.

It must be fright­en­ing to ri­vals how seam­lessly they aug­ment their prodi­gious strengths. Where Chelsea take a £47.5mil­lion punt on Timo Werner, who spurned firsthalf chances ga­lore yes­ter­day, Liver­pool pick up Thi­ago, last seen chore­ograph­ing Bay­ern Mu­nich’s Cham­pi­ons League tri­umph, for less than half that price.

Up front Mane is so dy­namic, so con­sis­tent. This bril­liant Sene­galese now has 83 goals for his club, eclips­ing even Luis Suarez. In the Premier League, he has scored more times than Cris­tiano Ron­aldo. Not for noth­ing is Mane some­times char­ac­terised as Ron­aldo with­out the preen­ing. All the sig­na­ture at­tributes were there in abun­dance at Stam­ford Bridge: the poise, the ath­leti­cism, the speed, the abil­ity to be as lethal with his head as he is with his right boot.

The game’s cru­cial mo­ment, the

The av­er­age po­si­tion of seven Liver­pool play­ers was in­side the Chelsea half...


...whereas, no Chelsea player’s av­er­age po­si­tion was in­side the Liver­pool half

Ap­pears easy: Sa­dio Mane makes it look sim­ple as he heads in Liver­pool’s opener

tackle by Chris­tensen on Mane, came be­cause the Dane did not dare let him es­cape. When ref­eree Paul Tier­ney had to de­cide be­tween a yel­low and a red card, he had one fac­tor to con­sider: would Mane have reached the ball? The des­per­a­tion of the lunge gave him the an­swer.

Back when he was at Red Bull Salzburg, team-mates would marvel at how Mane would spend ev­ery spare mo­ment per­fect­ing his core sta­bil­ity ex­er­cises. In his fifth sea­son at Liver­pool, the fruits of those labours are made man­i­fest.

Look at his headed goal to quell Chelsea’s re­sis­tance. It was not straight­for­ward at all, with Mane peel­ing away from goal to re­ceive the ball, but the po­si­tion­ing of his body was so ac­cu­rate that he made it ap­pear so.

When he gifted pos­ses­sion to Fikayo To­mori, a pained lit­tle jump con­veyed his dis­gust. But rather than slouch, he bore down on the hap­less Kepa, in­ter­cept­ing the clear­ance to put Liver­pool out of sight.

It is the type of hus­tle that Klopp adores. He could not con­jure a bet­ter striker if he was asked to draw one. Bet­ter still, there is a guar­an­teed ab­sence of ego, with Mane es­chew­ing Fer­raris and Hublot watches in favour of send­ing money back to his fam­ily in Sene­gal.

Liver­pool de­liv­ered a re­minder to the Premier League yes­ter­day that their ap­petite to de­fend their ti­tle is in­sa­tiable.

It is a quest that seems des­tined to suc­ceed, thanks to the mag­nif­i­cence of Mane.

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