Guardiola may secretly applaud Klopp’s decision after “they scare me” claim
Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp have continued their rivalry in the Premier League and the Manchester City boss will likely welcome the latest transfer call by Liverpool
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Pep Guardiola might just be quietly pleased Liverpool are set to sanction the sale of Sadio Mane.
The Senegal superstar will leave Anfield following six successful seasons with the Reds, with an agreement reportedly in place with Bayern Munich. Mane was due to enter the final year of his contract, and the 30-year-old was said to be keen on a new challenge.
The former Southampton star netted 120 times in 263 Liverpool appearances, and helped Liverpool secure another Champions League crown, as well as ending their 30-year wait for a top-flight title. However, the era of Klopp’s famous front three is drawing to a close, with the FA Cup and Carabao Cup holders accepting an offer worth up to £35 million.
Mane was shifted to a central role for the final few months of his career on Merseyside, due to the sensational form of January signing Luis Diaz. However, as eventual Golden Boot winner Mohamed Salah struggled to recapture his best form following the African Cup of Nations, Mane used Senegal’s success in the competition to lead his club’s scoring charts in the second-half of the season.
Klopp made the versatile forward his first major signing in his Liverpool rebuild in the summer of 2016, with some questioning the £34 million price tag at the time. However, Mane has silenced these doubters and in a period of sustained success, the forward has been named as club legend Jamie Carragher’s favourite player of the Klopp era so far.
The Liverpool boss wasted no time in securing a replacement, with in-demand Benfica star Darwin Nunez already acquired in a potential club-record deal. Roberto Firmino and Salah still face uncertain futures however, with both forwards yet to agree contract extensions beyond the end of next season.
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With Nunez joining Diaz and Diogo Jota as the evolution of Liverpool’s frontline, Klopp has more than enough firepower to once again plot another attempt at an unprecedented quadruple. However, the impending departure of Mane will still be welcomed by long-term rivals City and one man in particular.
It is not often that Guardiola will admit to being fearful ahead of a crunch encounter. But in the infancy of the Premier League chapter of the storied rivalry with Klopp, the former Barcelona and Bayern boss revealed his concerns over the potency of Liverpool’s famed three.
Rewind to the 2017/18 season, and Guardiola was on course to celebrate his first Premier League title when City were drawn against the Reds at the Champions League quarter-final stage. The future centurions thrashed Klopp’s side earlier in the campaign at the Etihad Stadium, but were edged out in a seven-goal thriller in the return fixture.
City’s title-winning campaign was the subject of an Amazon All or Nothing documentary series, which later broadcast dressing room scenes and intense tactical debate. Mane was sent off for a horror challenge on Ederson in the 5-0 defeat in September 2017, but the forward’s quality still prompted a rare admission from Guardiola ahead of the European tie.
In a clip that has resurfaced on social media in the wake of Mane’s exit, the City boss outlined his fears with assistants Carles Planchart and Domenec Torrent. Discussing Liverpool’s front three, Guardiola said: “They scare me. They’re dangerous, I mean it.
“I have a feeling that Salah will play [as a] striker. Salah will play as number nine and Firmino will move towards the wing. He comes here and Salah goes forward. Our wing-back can’t cover their wing-backs.”
Planchert and Torrent both attempted to reassure Guardiola, but the City boss was ultimately proven correct. Liverpool secured an emphatic 5-1 aggregate victory, with all three forwards getting on the scoresheet.
Mane scored four times against City last season – including a brace in Liverpool’s FA Cup semi-final victory – and Guardiola will almost certainly be pleased to see the end of their famous forward line.
However, Klopp shows no sign of slowing down, and the pieces seem to already be in place for the Reds to cope with the loss of one of their stars.