Thierry Henry has hailed Liverpool’s Sadio Mane as the Premier League‘s Player of the Season, ahead of the likes of N’Golo Kante and Eden Hazard.
Mane has been a revelation since his £30 million move from Southampton last summer, scoring 13 goals and assisting a further six in 27 appearances in the English top flight.
The 24-year-old has been ruled out for the rest of the season after undergoing surgery on a knee injury on Tuesday, after limping off midway through this month’s 3-1 Merseyside derby victory.
This serves as a blow to Liverpool’s top-four hopes, with Jurgen Klopp forced to alter his system without the winger.
That this is the case is a testament to Mane’s influence, and with Henry joining his fellow Sky Sports pundits in selecting their Player of the Season, the Frenchman highlighted this.
While Jamie Carragher and Niall Quinn both opted for Hazard, Gary Neville and Alan Smith nominated Kante and Graeme Souness picked Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henry gave his backing to Mane.
“I’ll have to give Ibrahimovic a lot of credit, but Sadio Mane has been the player of the season for me,” he explained.
“Mane is a hell of a player. He brings something different to Liverpool.
“But not only to Liverpool, to the Premier League [as a whole]. He’s been a star this year.”
Henry certainly raises a vital point when assessing Mane’s impact at Anfield, with the Senegalese’s pace and direct attacking style rare qualities in the Premier League.
Liverpool suffered hugely without Mane on the turn of the year, with Klopp choosing not to dip into the transfer market to find a replacement.
There are very few players capable of providing the same cutting edge in the final third, and Klopp’s switch to a 3-5-2 system in his absence for the Premier League run-in is proof of this.
Nevertheless, one of the German’s priorities in the summer transfer window will be adding further wide options to his squad.
Bayer Leverkusen’s Julian Brandt, Leicester City‘s Demarai Gray and Arsenal‘s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have all been mooted as options, but none are at Mane’s level at this stage.
Gray would be the most stylistically similar, but the 20-year-old is still largely unproven at the top level.
With Liverpool set to be fighting on four fronts next season, this is a quandary Klopp will need to address in the market, with his side severely lacking without Mane.