John Gibbons: Mané’s new contract a massive boost ahead difficult December

Liverpool locked down their Senegalese star for another few years, an encouraging move as they face into a challenging run of games...

Sadio Mane

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The news last night that Sadio Mané has signed a new long-term deal at Anfield was extremely good news for all Liverpool fans. Contract talks had been going since the summer at least and the longer it dragged on, the more you started to worry something was wrong. So finally getting it sorted was very welcome indeed.

It also came completely out of the blue. Which is strange as I follow at least ten people on Twitter who claim to know all the inner workings of Liverpool Football Club and everything that is about to happen. Maybe they are just internet blaggers who don’t know anything at all?

Nah, I’m sure they will be back in January with their fingers on the transfer pulse.

Sadio Mané often doesn’t get the credit he deserves at Anfield. Which happens I suppose when the fella on the other flank is breaking records left, right and centre. But Mané has been excellent ever since he signed. A return of 40 goals in 87 appearances is exceptional for a player who is also tasked with carrying the ball, creating chances and giving the team width. He’s played both sides, deeper on occasion, but always remained a threat. He works for the team too. He’s a perfect modern forward.

Which is why everyone at Liverpool is so happy with the news. It’s also a statement of how far the club has come that all three of Mané, Firmino and Salah have recently signed long term contracts, committing them to Liverpool for what should be the peak years of their careers. You shouldn’t need me to tell you that this hasn’t always been the case.

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As Jurgen Klopp pointed out in his press conference today “A few years ago players in a very good moment thought they had to leave the club to make the next step, but now the boys think they can make the next step here.”

The list of players this century who have developed at Liverpool, but left to win trophies is long and depressing. Philippe Coutinho, Luis Suarez, Raheem Sterling, Xabi Alonso, Javier Mascherano, Fernando Torres. They all had fun at Liverpool but sought fortune elsewhere. Now, Liverpool is seen as a club that can match any top player’s ambition. It is quite the transformation, and Jurgen Klopp deserves most of the credit for it.

Of course the next stage for everyone is to prove that all these players are right to put their faith in the manager and the football club. Footballers careers are short and if they see momentum stalling or power shifting, we might soon see how important or otherwise those contracts are in keeping players.

Mané‘s new deal is also a fantastic boost on the eve of a crucial period in Liverpool’s season. They play 10 times before the end of December in crucial games domestically and abroad. In the Champions League there are two massive games against top European sides that will determine whether Liverpool stay in the competition or drop into the Europa League.

Despite the fact that Liverpool’s group always looked tough, the latter would feel like a bit of a disaster, just as Liverpool had re-established themselves as a European force by reaching the Champions League final in Kyiv. We need to get through, by hook or by crook.

But then we can’t let our league form slip either.

With the strength of the competition this season it looks like Liverpool will need to go at a ridiculous pace just to stay in the pack. Given what they are doing at Manchester City, it seems very unlikely that a great run of form into the New Year will see us pull away at the top. If we can’t, we need to remain a nuisance, like an angry wasp. “How is it we are winning 10-0 every week yet Liverpool won’t go away?” Pep’ll cry.

Everton, Arsenal, Manchesters United and City. We play them all in the league before the FA Cup starts in January. We’re going to need our full squad, our top players firing and others who aren’t to step up and be counted. It’s going to be relentless and nerve-wracking and exhilarating and tiring. But the manager believes, the players have proved they believe, so we should too. It’s a special group well worth following. Well at least to Watford on Saturday. Then we’ll take it from there.

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