As for Mane and Firmino, it might just come down to age vs. current value. Despite functioning as the team’s de facto No. 9, Firmino provides an aggressive defensive presence and leads the team in through balls completed over the past two seasons. He’s just two goals behind Mane over that stretch, while also offering 22 assists to Mane’s 11. But Firmino is seven months older and Mane tied for the Premier League in goals this year, so the latter would likely command a higher fee.
I’ve written a few times about Mane and how I feel he’s a bit overrated. He’s a great striker who can finish in the box when put in the right position, but that’s basically it… He is extremely one-dimensional in that regard.
It was great seeing Origi start this past Friday in the season opener, even if it was only due to Mane coming back from international duties a little late. Origi has shown he can finish when given the opportunity similar to Mane, but more importantly, he is so much better with the ball at his feet, whether dribbling past defenders or setting up teammates. Origi has been slammed for disappearing or not understanding tactics as well as others, but Mane struggles just as much in those regards. Even if you are giving up a little bit of tactics and finishing ability with Origi, which I would disagree with, you more than make up for it with Origi’s dynamism.
Both Salah and Firmino can do it all as forwards and in my opinion, a lot of the perceived turmoil between Mane and Salah is Mane’s one-dimensional game, where Salah can set-up Mane, but is reluctant to do so because there will never be any reciprocation. And while internal competition is good, it can be a detriment when these types of things are top of mind.
Selling Mane now, while he is at his peak value, would bring in enough money to match last year’s windfall of players with Alisson, Fabinho, and van Djik, only this time the onslaught could be focused on the offensive side of the ball.
With Mane’s transfer fee, I would focus on bringing in two specific players. Ajax’s van de Beek and Lyon’s Memphis Depay. Mane’s fee won’t be enough to cover both, but combined with all the cash they have sitting around from being idle all offseason it should be more than enough.
Depay could come in right away and compete with Origi for Mane’s forward spot, and van de Beek could come in and fill the roll of the more offensive minded midfielder next to Fabinho and Wijnaldum. Henderson doesn’t cut it in my opinion and while we didn’t get to see Keita or Ox enough to know whether they can eventually fill that role, I have a feeling van de Beek would be the favorite pretty quickly. Neither player is an undiscovered gem, so they will cost a pretty penny, but it would be worth it to build up a strong team to compete against City.