Jamie Carragher has admitted that his initial assessment of Liverpool’s signing of Sadio Mane has “not aged well”.
Mane was signed from Southampton in 2016 for a fee reported to be in excess of £30million after two seasons in the Premier League.
He has since established himself as one of the league’s finest and most consistent wingers, scoring more than 100 times for Liverpool in all competitions and helping the club win both domestic and European honours.
Recalling his reaction at the time, Carragher has admitted that he was wrong to criticise the fee required to sign Mane, describing the Senegal forward as a transformative signing.
However, the former Liverpool centre half believes that some forget that his conclusion was one drawn by many when Liverpool signed the then 24-year-old, and that those assessing a transfer in retrospect can sometimes forget how people felt at the time.
In his column forThe Telegraph, Carragher explained: “When Mane joined Liverpool in June 2016, I gave my immediate verdict on the deal via social media.
“’I think £30m is expensive,’ I wrote. That tweet has not aged well. Neither have many of the responses agreeing with it.
“It shows how unsure I was about how good Mane was that the cost of the deal was concerning. When players perform as Mane has, there appears to be a collective amnesia of how the deal was perceived when it was announced.
“Today, it seems ridiculous for supporters or pundits to be quibbling over that extra £5m for Mane. Whatever he cost Liverpool, he was a bargain.
“He was the first big purchase of the [Jurgen] Klopp era and has set the tone for the excellent recruitment ever since.
“Without Mane being so good, Liverpool would not have qualified for the Champions League at the end of his first season, which enabled Klopp to lure [Mohamed] Salah and [Virgil] van Dijk, and then later Alisson Becker and Fabinho. Mane’s excellence was the catalyst at a key point in Klopp’s rebuilding process.”
Mane scored the winner on Tuesday as Liverpool came from behind to beat Aston Villa and keep the pressure on Manchester City at the top of the Premier League.
Klopp’s side still harbour hopes of a quadruple but will require their title rivals to drop points in their final two fixtures of the campaign.
Liverpool meet Chelsea for the FA Cup on Saturday and will head to Paris later in May seeking a second Champions League win under their German manager.
Mane has been linked with a move away from the club this summer, but Carragher has warned the club that they should not let him go, believing the winger to be a vital part of the club’s recent period of success.
“When I said earlier this week that Sadio Mane will have to get past me before he ever leaves Liverpool, I was only half joking,” Carragher continued.
“Any club trying to lure him from Anfield this summer ought to face a blockade. Mane is my favourite Liverpool player of the Jurgen Klopp era – often underrated and underestimated.
“Since January, the tendency to overlook him while Mohamed Salah grabbed all the attention has slightly changed.
“If Mane continues his current form he may help inspire Liverpool to four trophies, including the FA Cup against Chelsea this weekend. He will also be the Premier League’s most likely winner of the 2022 Ballon d’Or.”