November 28, 2023

Liverpool already put Sadio Mané on Cristiano Ronaldo route as move may disclose Saudi matter

Liverpool already put Sadio Mané on Cristiano Ronaldo route as move may disclose Saudi matter

Liverpool already put Sadio Mané on Cristiano Ronaldo route as move may disclose Saudi matter

The Saudi Pro League is enjoying an excellent summer. In Football Manager parlance, the recruiting tab has been navigated to and filtered by’reputation’ in an effort to recruit as many notable players as possible. A process that began with Cristiano Ronaldo last year has now entangled several major clubs, including Liverpool.

There are legitimate concerns about why the league, which is now heavily backed by the state’s sovereign wealth fund, is so concerned with its reputation. For many, the remedy is sportswashing.

However, the Saudi league will undoubtedly contend that it is attracting players who will improve the quality of the premier division. Even at the age of 37 (when he made the transfer), Ronaldo plainly checked that box, and the same can be said for the vast majority of the summer talent offensive.

Should Sadio Mané follow suit, amid rumored interest from Cristiano Ronaldo’s Al-Nassr (according to Florian Plettenberg of Sky Germany), he would also be a significant coup for the league. Despite a difficult season with Bayern Munich, it is evident that he is still a high-quality player, as he recently concluded his career at Liverpool with an inspired run of form that led to a quadruple charge.

However, there was something intriguing about Mané’s farewell performance. In essence, Liverpool placed him on the ‘Ronaldo path,’ with Jürgen Klopp employing his veteran left winger predominantly in the middle during the latter portion of the season.

Eventually, virtually all exceptional wingers must evolve. The loss of that explosive burst of speed concedes a half-yard advantage that typically proves decisive — it caused Ronaldo to spend his final years in Europe as a masterful poacher, and it required Liverpool to make adjustments in order to coax a performance from Mané.

It worked magnificently.

 Mané had quietly spent the better part of 18 months appearing past his prime, but the change, coupled with a well-timed confidence boost from the Africa Cup of Nations, saw him score seven goals and provide two assists in nine league games as a center-forward during the run-in. He scored twice against Manchester City in the FA Cup semi-final and scored twice against Villarreal in the Champions League semi-final.

It is reasonable to say that Mané has produced his best form as a striker in Bavaria, despite his many issues with Bayern Munich, including a lengthy injury layoff that derailed his World Cup hopes. In a promising start, he tallied three goals through the middle in his first three games.

This raises the topic of how Al-Nassr would organize themselves should they sign Mané. 

he and Ronaldo are now at their absolute best in the middle, looking like shadows of their former selves when positioned on the flanks without the necessary tools to overcome opponents as they once did. However, one must accommodate the other.

As long as Saudi Arabia places reputation above all else in its transfer dealings, this problem will persist. PSG has finally realized in Europe that big names do not inherently mesh well together. 

And when almost exclusively signing past-their-prime stars, the problem is exacerbated — players like Mané and Ronaldo must be accommodated in order to be true assets, but it is impossible to meet the demands of 11 veterans at once, all of whom have lost different aspects of their game.

Consider Argentina during the World Cup. Still a brilliant athlete, Lionel Messi cannot be expected to contribute much out of possession. 

His national team, including the new Liverpool player Alexis Mac Allister, was tasked with covering the gaps and doing the heavy work. A squad composed entirely of Messis would not have won the tournament.

Saudi Arabia hopes that peak-age talents will follow the veterans, and cold hard cash has already enticed a couple of them. This is an undertaking that appears to have long-term intentions. 

As long as it remains predominantly the home of European stars seeking a final big payday, the quality may not increase as much as anticipated — a potential partnership between Mané and Ronaldo could be an example.

Liverpool already put Sadio Mané on Cristiano Ronaldo route as move may disclose Saudi matter

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