Sadio Mane is Liverpool’s best left winger since John Barnes, says Jamie Carragher, and feels Jurgen Klopp’s overreliance on him highlights the lack of attacking depth at Anfield.
The Senegal international has become a talismanic presence on the red half of Merseyside.
A share of the Premier League Golden Boot was claimed last season, with 22 top-flight goals recorded as part of a personal best haul of 26 across all competitions.
Mane has been back on target this season, while remaining committed to doing his bit for the collective cause, but is considered to face the threat of burnout after a demanding couple of years which have delivered a lot of domestic, European and international football.
Liverpool legend Carragher told The Telegraph of the 27-year-old forward: “Mane is Liverpool’s first genuinely world class winger since John Barnes and the club’s best wide left player for almost 30 years.
“That in itself is a big explanation for why Liverpool have never quite taken that final step in the Premier League.”
The former Reds defender added on the quality of Mane and the problems he covers up: “What I also most love about Mane is his complete absence of ego and how he always puts the team first. That was really noticeable to me in how he reacted to the arrival of [Mohamed] Salah in 2017, when he had already been at the club for a year.
“Salah was suddenly the most exciting forward in the Premier League, scoring 44 goals in his first season, but there was never even the slightest sense that Mane was put out. He even moved position to accommodate Salah and allow him to be the main goal threat.
“With Roberto Firmino also becoming so fundamental to Klopp’s system of pressing from the front, I feel like Mane’s contribution is not as widely appreciated as it should be.
“Which brings me to the concern that I now have. Mane has become so important that Klopp is understandably reluctant to leave him out and let him have a proper rest.
“He has played in 53 club games since the start of the 2018-19 season. Of all the forwards throughout the entire Premier League, only Salah has played more than his 4,515 minutes.
“Liverpool’s season did not finish until June and he was then away with Senegal in the African Cup of Nations, playing seven matches.
“It was similar the summer before when he played in the World Cup and was then away with Liverpool in America in the International Champions Cup.
“In an ideal world, Mane would have been rested this season until after the first international break and not started under September.
“Klopp said after Saturday’s win against Southampton that no footballer should play more than 50 matches a season, especially in what he called the “intense positions”, and he has the resources in midfield to address this concern.
“His use of Mane, however, unfortunately already suggests that Liverpool’s squad is not strong enough in the attacking positions.
“Mane himself has said that tiredness is only mental and that he has never had a holiday that lasts longer than 20 days since joining Red Bull Salzburg in 2012.
“I truly hope he is right but you cannot keep defying your body and my big worry is that there will be a drop off without a carefully scheduled rest.
“How Liverpool absorb either scenario could very well decide whether another Premier League challenge can be sustained.”
Liverpool, with Mane likely to be involved once again, face a stern examination of their title credentials on Saturday when they play host to Arsenal.