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Why Mohamed Salah would be the ideal player to replicate Sadio Mane’s role at Liverpool

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With Liverpool reported to be keeping an eye on Roma winger Mohamed Salah, Jurgen Klopp has identified a prime alternative to Sadio Mane.

Salah has emerged as a possible summer target for the Reds, with the likelihood of signing their first choice, Julian Brandt, dwindling ahead of the transfer window.

The Bayer Leverkusen winger is eager to secure regular first-team football next season, in order to seal his place in the Germany squad for the World Cup in Russia, and this would be unlikely at Anfield.

Therefore, Klopp is reported to have cast his eye elsewhere, with Salah among those considered as part of an injection of talent in Liverpool’s forward ranks.

And the Egypt international would arguably be even better placed to solve the Reds’ problems without Mane.


Sadio Mane’s Draining Absence

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, March 4, 2017: Liverpool's Sadio Mane in action against Arsenal during the FA Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It would be no understatement to suggest Mane is Liverpool’s most important player, having produced a series of sensational performances following his £30 million move from Southampton.

The 24-year-old is still the Reds’ top goalscorer this season, with 13, despite having made just 29 appearances in all competitions—11 fewer than Roberto Firmino, who has scored 12.

He has also laid on eight goals for his team-mates, with only Firmino (10) assisting more, highlighting his impact in the final third.

Mane is a quick, tenacious winger who gives Liverpool an edge they have been unable to recapture since he was ruled out with a knee injury back in April.

The Senegal international will miss the rest of the season, and for the second time in 2017, his side’s output has suffered with him out.

In January, when Mane was at the Africa Cup of Nations, Klopp failed to address the lack of a like-for-like replacement in his squad, and the Reds have struggled as a result.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, April 5, 2017: Liverpool's Divock Origi in action against AFC Bournemouth during the FA Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

A brief change of system as the season’s climax closed in underlined Klopp’s shortage of a real ‘Plan B’, and now he has been forced to persevere with an out-of-form Divock Origi, leaving Firmino out of position.

With Liverpool guaranteed a place in either the Champions League or the Europa League next season—and harbouring ambitions of maintaining a title challenge, too—this cannot happen in 2017/18.

Centre-back, left-back, central midfield and striker will be priority positions for Klopp in the market, but adding depth and quality out wide is similarly important.


Mohamed Salah

ST. LOUIS, USA - Monday, August 1, 2016: AS Roma's Mohamed Salah in action against Liverpool during a pre-season friendly game on day twelve of the club's USA Pre-season Tour at the Busch Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Salah may be something of a controversial target for Liverpool supporters, following the failed attempt to sign him from Basel in 2014.

The winger was Brendan Rodgers’ key man in the January transfer window, but continued attempts to lowball the Swiss club saw Chelsea swoop in and seal a deal worth an initial £12 million.

“Liverpool had wanted me for a number of months. They had opened talks in October 2013,” Salah explained in 2016.

“Negotiations took a long time, because Basel rejected more than one offer. They felt the transfer fee was not that high.

“I was waiting for Liverpool because I really like Liverpool. I was eager to join them. But then I received a phone call from Mourinho and that changed everything.”

Joining one of the Reds’ Premier League rivals could sour any future move for Salah, but the winger has since spent time with two other clubs, having failed to settle at Stamford Bridge.

Since leaving west London, Salah has recaptured the form that made him a breakthrough talent at Basel.

On loan at Fiorentina in the second half of 2014/15, he scored nine goals and assisted a further four in 26 appearances in all competitions, sparking interest from the capital.

Mohamed Salah, Roma - John Walton/EMPICS Sport

After an initial loan move to Roma, Salah joined the club in a deal believed to be worth £12.5 million, which has proved a bargain given his impact at the Stadio Olimpico.

He has scored 32 and assisted 23 in 80 appearances for Roma, with his 13 goals and 12 assists in 28 Serie A games this season helping to push Luciano Spalletti’s side to the top end of the league.

Salah currently has two years left on his contract, and given his success at Roma it would be remiss to suggest he would be eager to move on.

But his praise for Liverpool prior to joining Chelsea was certainly indicative of his interest, which could be revived if Klopp opts to make a move to provide competition for Mane.


The Perfect Alternative?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, April 1, 2017: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp gives a thumbs-up as his side beat Everton 3-1 during the FA Premier League match, the 228th Merseyside Derby, at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Comparing Salah and Mane, it is easy to see why Klopp could be interested in signing Roma’s No. 11.

They’re both phenomenally pacy, intelligent wingers capable of both operating on the front foot and putting sides to the sword on the break, driving at defenders and running in from behind.

Furthermore, they both pair their raw ability with a genuine cutting edge: Mane has averaged a goal or assist every 115.6 minutes this season, while Salah averages one every 95.5 minutes.

Salah has averaged 2.7 key passes and 1.3 successful dribbles per 90 minutes in Serie A this season, compared to Mane’s 1.8 key passes and 2.7 successful dribbles in the Premier League.

With Klopp expecting his forwards to maintain the intensity in the final third, too, it is encouraging to see Salah has averaged more successful tackles (one to 0.9) and interceptions (0.4 to 0.3) than Mane, too.

Shining in Serie A is, clearly, much different to the Premier League, but Salah was barely given the opportunity to do so at Chelsea, playing just 46.4 minutes per game on average in his year with the Blues.

LONDON, ENGLAND - Wednesday, December 10, 2014: Chelsea's Mohamed Salah in action against Sporting Clube de Portugal during the final UEFA Champions League Group G match at Stamford Bridge. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It is feasible that Klopp could look to field both Salah and Mane, too, as while the Egyptian has regularly played on the right for Roma, he is naturally left-footed, and can play on either flank.

This would allow Klopp the flexibility to alter his system when the likes of Coutinho and Firmino are absent, giving the Reds more options in attack.

Perhaps the only downside to signing Salah would be, like Mane, his regular involvement at the Africa Cup of Nations, but with the next tournament not due until 2019, this is not an immediate issue.

Either way, signing two wide players would be the ideal scenario for the Reds this summer, with Arsenal‘s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain the right fit as the second candidate.

But while Oxlade-Chamberlain is currently considered more likely, moving for Salah should be a bigger priority, as he would solve a problem that has clearly held Liverpool back in 2016/17.

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