Liverpool’s succession plan will be tested if Klopp’s ‘machine’ moves to Bayern Munich

Over the previous three transfer windows, Liverpool‘s succession plan to replace the front three that has spearheaded Jurgen Klopp’s squad has been in evidence.

Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino have been pillars of the club’s recent success, playing star roles in the 2019 Champions League triumph, the historic Premier League title success in 2020 and other trophy wins in between and since.

So efficient and ruthless has that trident been down the years that they have frequently been heralded as one of, if not the best attacking combination in European football at their peak.

There was always going to come a time when the trio would start to be broken up, though, and the signings of Diogo Jota in the summer of 2020 and Luis Diaz in January 2022, have helped accelerate that process.

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Firmino is no longer a guaranteed starter, while speculation over the futures of Salah and Mane, who each have a year left to run on their contracts, has persisted for some time.

For a while, it looked as though Salah may be the most likely to depart, however, since Liverpool suffered an agonising defeat to Real Madrid in the Champions League final, it is Mane who seems to be more open to taking on a new challenge elsewhere.

According to reports, Bayern Munich are eager to offer Mane precisely that, perhaps with a view to making him their new marquee attacker with Robert Lewandowski angling for a move to Barcelona.

Mane hasn’t exactly played down rumours over an impending exit, speaking candidly while on international duty with Senegal.

“Like everyone else, I’m on social media and I see the comments. Isn’t it between 60 to 70 per cent of Senegalese that want me to leave Liverpool?” Mane said in a press conference.

“I will do what they want. We will see soon! Don’t be in a hurry because we’ll see this together.”

Mane’s declaration sounds like a 2022 reboot of Harry Kane’s “ultimately it’s going to be down to me” comments from last summer.

As much as he and a chunk of the Senegalese people may want him to swap Anfield for the Allianz, he is under contract at Liverpool and they will not want to lose him for anything below their valuation, even if their bargaining position is significantly weaker than Tottenham’s was with Kane.

The impact made by Jota and Diaz has ensured that the prospect of Mane moving on is not quite as unpalatable as it would have been previously.

Jota has been a huge success since joining for £40m from Wolves, scoring 34 goals in 85 appearances, including 15 in the Premier League last season. Diaz has been equally effective following his £50m move from Porto, establishing himself as a regular in the big games during Liverpool’s run-in.

With Salah now expected to stay next season, Firmino back to full fitness and the exciting Fabio Carvalho added from Fulham, Klopp is hardly short of attacking options heading into the new campaign.

But as well as Jota and Diaz have adapted to Liverpool and as well-stocked as their forward line is, Liverpool would certainly miss Mane’s qualities if he were to depart.

The 2021-22 season was statistically his second-best at Liverpool, yielding 23 goals in 51 appearances in all competitions, and after spending the vast majority of his time at the club as an inside forward on the left wing, Mane emerged as Klopp’s first-choice striker as the Reds chased the quadruple.

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And throughout his six years on Merseyside, he has been immensely popular with colleagues and fans alike.

“He’s a machine, I told him after the game,” Klopp eulogised after his winner against Aston Villa in May. “[He’s a] massive player, his physicality is brutal. The mix of technique, desire and physicality.

“You can see [he has] a few yards in the legs, we can see it, to be honest. He’s a fantastic, world-class player.”

Jamie Carragher said. “When I have watched Liverpool as a fan, Sadio Mane is my favourite player. There is just something about Mane. He’s sacrificed himself at times and the shift he puts in.

“I love him, absolutely love him to bits. And not just because he’s a great player and what he’s done for Liverpool.”

Liverpool’s excellent recruitment has ensured that they have consistently improved their squad from a position of strength. It means that they are better protected than most from losing one of their key stars.

Nevertheless, if Mane is to get his wish and join Bayern Munich, it is hard to see how Liverpool would be anything other than weakened as they seek to wrestle the title back from Manchester City.

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