Liverpool would be “ridiculous” to let Sadio Mane leave over a wage dispute and his exit would cost them in the Premier League title race, one pundit has said.
The Senegal international has scored 120 goals in six seasons at Anfield, proving vital in the six major honours won so far in the Jurgen Klopp era. However, he reportedly feels now is the time for a new challenge.
While Mane has one year left on his contract, Liverpool have yet to pen him to fresh terms. And at 30, he has one big contract left in his career as he looks to make his name elsewhere.
Bayern Munich are the leading contenders to snap Mane up. According to Gabby Agbonlahor, though, the player leaving would create a big hole in the Liverpool front line.
While Klopp has refreshed his attack with Diogo Jota and Luis Diaz, Agbonlahor does not think they can cover for Mane’s goalscoring feats.
“Liverpool allowing Mane to go next season will cost them the title,” the pundit told talkSPORT.
“[Erling] Haaland is signing for Manchester City, they are becoming stronger.
“You are going to let Mane leave? Yes, you have got Diaz and Jota but they are not going to get Mane’s numbers. Mane is a goalscorer, the threat he gives Liverpool going in behind, making unselfish runs.”
Mohamed Salah’s Liverpool future is also unclear. Like Mane, he has a year left on his contract. And while Salah has confirmed he is staying next season, anything beyond that remains a mystery.
Agbonlahor insisted that Mane is “not more important” than Salah. Instead, he said they are “both as important as each other”.
“Yes, Liverpool have always had good recruitment bringing in players but the numbers that Mane gets, the threat that he gives opposition defenders, that helps free up more space for Salah,” the pundit added.
Mane deserves what Liverpool cannot give him
Amid reports that Mane is demanding almost £400,000 per week for a new Liverpool deal, Agbonlahor insisted that Mane has every right to leave if the Reds do not want to break their wage structure.
“For me first and foremost Mane leaving is ridiculous, and I don’t blame both of them, Mane and Salah,” he said. “The numbers they are getting year in, year out, they want paying what they deserve.
“If they are seeing Haaland getting £400,000 [a-week], [Kevin] De Bruyne £350,000, they are saying to their agents ‘I want exactly what they are getting’. Salah is top goalscorer every season, so ‘Pay me what I deserve or I will leave’.
“It doesn’t matter if people are like ‘£250,000 is enough, you’re fine on that’, players want paying what they deserve.”
Liverpool can handle big exits
However, Klopp and Liverpool will know that they have been in this situation before.
Attacking midfielder Philippe Coutinho was vital in Klopp’s team in his early years as manager. However, he made it clear in the summer of 2017 that he wanted to move to Barcelona.
Liverpool managed to keep him until January 2018 but subsequently accepted the Brazilian’s exit.
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Since then, full-backs Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold have become the cornerstones of the Liverpool attack out wide with great success.
Klopp has made his Liverpool tenure so successful because he can adapt to these sorts of situations. He has done it before and will surely do it again if Mane leaves.