The world’s best wing duo! Salah-Mane now comparable with Ronaldo-Bale and Robben-Ribery

Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Liverpool
The African pair, who both made the 2019 Goal 50 top five, have played a pivotal role in Liverpool establishing themselves as the best side in Europe

“No.5? Nice!”

Sadio Mane is smiling as he is presented with his memento. 

Footballers always tell you they don’t really care for individual awards, but don’t believe them. Deep down, they love the recognition.

Goal 50

“Next year No.1, yes?” grins Mane, posing for pictures with his prize for finishing fifth on the Goal 50 list for 2019.

Mohamed Salah, his Liverpool team-mate, is absent on the day. We are told the Egyptian is on a different training schedule due to an ongoing ankle issue. Salah, for the second year running, has finished third in the list, behind only Lionel Messi and, of course, team-mate Virgil van Dijk. 

Liverpool’s fingerprints, naturally, are all over the list, with Van Dijk in top spot and six other Reds in the men’s top 25. Goal are at Melwood to present awards not only to Mane and Van Dijk, but to Andy Robertson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Alisson Becker and Roberto Firmino, too.

Yes, the European champions have certainly made their presence felt over the last 12 months, establishing themselves as perhaps the best club side on the planet – a position they can confirm at the FIFA Club World Cup in Qatar next month.

Individually, the accolades are stacking up. Van Dijk is indisputably the world’s best defender, Alisson the best goalkeeper. Right now, Robertson and Alexander-Arnold are peerless as full-backs, while there are not many centre-forwards who give a team what Firmino does.

Which leaves Mane and Salah. 

Sadio Mane Goal 50 PS

How much of Liverpool’s success is down to these two; these wingers who work like midfielders and score like strikers, these prolific, pacy wide-forwards who deliver for their team time and time again.

These are two of the best signings the club ever made, for sure. Combined, they cost less than a Harry Maguire, less than two-thirds of a Philippe Coutinho, around the same as a Nicolas Pepe. What would they be worth in today’s market? No club on earth could afford both of them.

Their numbers are remarkable. Since Salah joined Mane on Merseyside in the summer of 2017, they have scored a combined 137 goals. One hundred and thirty seven, and neither of them could ever be described as a natural, out-and-out striker. On the Premier League’s official Fantasy Football game, they’re both listed as midfielders.

Last season they shared, along with Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, the Premier League Golden Boot award, having netted 22 league goals each. This year already, they are off and running again. It’s November, and they have 20 in all competitions between them. This time, for a change, Mane leads Salah. 

There is competition between the pair, but it is healthy. Much was made of their spat at Burnley back in September, when Mane was angered by Salah failing to pass to him, but suggestions of a rift are laughable. They are as close now as they have ever been.

And they are, with their goals and with their assists and with their work-rate, redefining the role of the wide man.

Is there a better wing duo in world football right now? There certainly isn’t a more productive one.

Mohamed Salah Sadio Mane Liverpool PS

We have seen some great ones during the Premier League era, in fairness.

Ryan Giggs and David Beckham were special, serial winners with Manchester United in the 1990s and early-2000s. Damien Duff and Arjen Robben were key men as Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea ruled the roost for a couple of years, while before that Robert Pires and Freddie Ljungberg provided goals and ammunition for Arsene Wenger’s brilliant Arsenal team.

On the global stage, the last decade has enjoyed the majestic ‘Robbery’ duo of Robben and Franck Ribery at Bayern Munich, while Barcelona’s team under Pep Guardiola worked so well because of the effective brilliance of Pedro and David Villa. Over at Real Madrid, there have been few more thrilling sights than Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale in full flight.

Salah and Mane are now in that bracket. That’s how good they have been for Liverpool over the past two years; that’s how vital they are to Klopp’s side. If one of them doesn’t get you, the other one will. Without them, the Reds are half the team.

It has been fascinating to see the transformation of Salah at Anfield. Impressive at Roma, he has morphed into a genuine world star at Liverpool; marketable, durable, humble and ultra-consistent. In 121 games, he’s scored 80 times. At Anfield, his record is 51 in 60 games. Just silly, really.

“We all have dreams and, for sure, Mo dreams big!” Klopp said recently. “He wants to achieve a lot, and that’s good for us.”

With Mane, the challenge has been a little different.

Jurgen Klopp Sadio Mane Liverpool PS

“He needed more confidence when he first came in,” Klopp has admitted. “I think he was surprised a bit by himself. He needed to get used to the fact that he is a world-class player.”

He’s used to that fact now, surely?

He was Liverpool’s player of the year in his first campaign on Merseyside, but his last two seasons have elevated him to stardom. They have brought 46 goals, and he has 11 already in this campaign.

“He’s not having to convince people now,” Klopp said. “We all know that he’s a world-class player, and he has started realising that for himself.”

The challenge now, for both, is to continue the trophy hunt. Great players become great players through success, through silverware. Salah and Mane got a taste of glory last season but they want more. Everyone at Liverpool does.

World recognition beckons in December, the Premier League title looms on the horizon. In Europe, Liverpool need fear nobody. 

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Not with these two fit and firing, anyway. 

No.1 next year, yes?

Don’t bet against it. The only question might be which one it’ll be...