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Liverpool: Can, Coutinho and Wijnaldum’s troubles post-Klopp give Mane food for thought

With Sadio Mane’s £35million move to Bayern Munich nearing completion, it’s hard for Liverpool fans to have too harsh a sentiment towards a player who has given them six years of unparalleled success and sparkling attacking memories.

From the moment he signed from Southampton in 2016, the Senegalese has been one of Jurgen Klopp’s stars – perhaps for long, the star – in the midst of an Anfield reconstruction that will go down in history.

Mane played more than his part. 120 goals tells its own story. But while the 30-year-old will no doubt leave a void, Darwin Nunez has some big shoes to fill. But analyzing from a career perspective – is this actually a wise decision?

Sadio Mane has decided to leave Liverpool and join Bayern Munich on a £35m deal

Sadio Mane has decided to leave Liverpool and join Bayern Munich on a £35m deal

Still, history shows star players struggle to impress after leaving life under Jurgen Klopp

Still, history shows star players struggle to impress after leaving life under Jurgen Klopp

Be careful what you wish for, as the saying goes. While Mane has helped make Liverpool a juggernaut of European football once again, conversely, it should not be forgotten what the Reds and Klopp have done for the Senegalese and his fame.

SADIO MOONS IN LIVERPOOL

apparitions: 269

goals: 120

assists: 48

Yellow Red: 34/1

Trophies: 6 (Premier League, FA Cup, EFL Cup, Champions League, UEFA Super Cup, FIFA Club World Cup

For in six years, Mané went from a promising attacking prospect to one of the deadliest attackers in world football.

His double at the Allianz Arena against new employers Bayern in the magical 2019 Champions League run was one such example of a plethora of standout match-winning moments.

With his raw pace and work ethic, Mane was perfectly suited to Klopp’s high-press, high-energy philosophy of football, forming a deadly trio on and off the ball alongside Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino.

And even with the arrival of Diogo Jota and Luis Diaz in recent years, Mane was almost always a regular starter.

But now he’s packed it all for a new challenge in Germany, with a European giant who has won its national title in 10 of the last 10 years.

So the first question to ask is, is this really a challenge for a player of Mane’s stature?

But, more importantly, why risk a decline in fame if growth was still possible? Because the evidence that players leave Klopp’s dressing room is that it usually didn’t work out.

The first significant departure from Klopp’s era was undoubtedly Philippe Coutinho’s £142 million move to Barcelona in January 2018.

In a season that would change the game for Liverpool as they surprisingly reached the Champions League final, the Reds lost their Brazilian playmaker, six months after he made it clear that his heart was in Catalonia.

While the Reds used the money to sign Virgil van Dijk, Coutinho struggled at Nou Camp. He was originally injured for three weeks and ultimately never reached the heights promised.

Philippe Coutinho left Liverpool to join Barcelona in 2018 but never regained his great form

Philippe Coutinho left Liverpool to join Barcelona in 2018 but never regained his great form

After scoring against Man Utd in the Champions League in April 2019, Coutinho kept his fingers crossed in response to a wave of criticism from fans. A few weeks later, Coutinho and Co narrowed a three-goal lead in the semi-final against his former club Liverpool and a few months later he was loaned out to Bayern Munich.

But the real shame for Barca was to come, as Coutinho scored twice against his parent club in the infamous 8-2 European quarter-final in 2020, when the Brazilian won the Champions League, albeit as a side player.

Coutinho’s Barca career never fully recovered. He was loaned to Aston Villa by former team-mate Steven Gerrard before being signed to a permanent contract a few weeks ago as he aims to get his career back on track and with a World Cup on the horizon in November.

Coutinho thought he could reach stratospheric heights without Liverpool, but with a Champions League in 2019 and the Premier League a year later, Liverpool appeared to reach the highest level without Coutinho.

One of Coutinho's humbling nights in a Barca shirt came in the hands of Liverpool in 2019

One of Coutinho’s humbling nights in a Barca shirt came in the hands of Liverpool in 2019

In the same year of Coutinho’s departure, Germany international Emre Can also decided to explore options beyond Merseyside.

The powerful midfielder – a favorite under Klopp – decided to let his contract expire and made his last appearance for Liverpool as a late substitute in the 2018 Champions League final against Real Madrid.

He joined Juventus in a five-year deal worth €5 million per season – figures that could not be matched at Anfield.

After making 29 appearances in a Serie-A winning squad, Can quickly fell out of favor under Maurizio Sarri and was dropped from the squad’s Champions League roster a season later.

A loan spell, followed by a permanent contract, to Borussia Dortmund has somewhat revived his career, but it would be understandable if he didn’t ask: Would I have been better off at Liverpool?

Emre Can - a Klopp favorite - decided to let his Anfield contract expire

Emre Can – a Klopp favorite – decided to let his Anfield contract expire

He joined Juventus in a five-year deal worth €5million per season, but soon fell out of favor

He joined Juventus in a five-year deal worth €5million per season, but soon fell out of favor

The third most notable example is more recent, with Gini Wijnaldum leaving last summer, also on the expiry of his contract.

With Barcelona and PSG the suitors, the Dutchman opted for the Qatari-backed French side in a summer when they stunned world football and signed Lionel Messi.

But despite starting 22 of the 38 Ligue 1 matches – in a comfortable title win – Wijnaldum underperformed and admitted he was not ‘quite happy’ with his role at the Parc des Princes.

He was dropped from the Netherlands’ most recent roster by Louis van Gaal and was named Ligue 1’s ‘Flop of the year’ by means of Get French football newsafter 100,000 votes were cast and GFFN experts were consulted, with Wijandlum winning by a ‘wide margin’.

While there’s still time for Wijnaldum to turn his time around in Paris, it’s hardly an ideal start, taking place in a season where Liverpool were battling for a historic fourfold – a feat they were just two games short of.

Gini Wijnaldum joined PSG last year but was voted Ligue 1's 'Flop of the Year' a few weeks ago

Gini Wijnaldum joined PSG last year but was voted Ligue 1’s ‘Flop of the Year’ a few weeks ago

So the warning signs for Mane are ubiquitous. While Danny Ings, Dominic Solanke and Harry Wilson have all impressed since leaving Anfield, there have also been lesser-known cases of players struggling with post-Klopp, such as Rhian Brewster, Mamadou Sakho and Danny Ward.

Klopp has a habit of making players stars through his own coaching prowess and imperious man management. Mane will join a team that has already won everything domestically, led by a coach whose man-management was questioned by Julian Nagelsmann last season.

In addition, it seems unlikely that Mane will line up alongside Robert Lewandowski, who has made clear his desire to leave.

Previous cases show that Mane is gambling. At the peak of his prowess after a stellar season for both club and country, it may not be that Liverpool and Klopp are missing him, but that Mane is missing Liverpool and Klopp.

Mane won everything there was to win in a red shirt, but is he taking an unnecessary risk by leaving?

Mane won everything there was to win in a red shirt, but is he taking an unnecessary risk by leaving?

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