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Salah and Mane give Liverpool guarantees even Mbappe and Haaland couldn’t offer

Luis Diaz coming in to replace Mane or Salah is nonsense: Liverpool are building for the future while they are still on top, so why would they sell their stars?

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Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp discusses title race

Like every Liverpool fan across the world, I just want the club to give new contracts to Mo Salah and Sadio Mane.

Unlike most though, I don’t think the lack of movement in negotiations is some big conspiracy to get them out of the club, to be replaced by younger models in a year’s time or sooner.

Granted, the arrival of Luis Diaz has already suggested Jurgen Klopp has more options now – an alternative for Mane if necessary, or even Roberto Firmino, because he can play in that false nine role too.

He’s not come in to replace Mane though, or Salah for that matter. Not any time soon. That’s just nonsense. And this weekend’s EFL Cup final tells you that.

Which names are first on Klopp’s team-sheet? Unless he goes with one of the lesser lights out of sentiment because they played in the earlier rounds, it will be Salah and Mane. No question.

Diaz has been signed because behind the scenes, Liverpool are doing what the club always used to do during the dominant years of the ’70s and ’80s. They’re winning now while planning for the future. It’s evolution, not revolution.

In the past, players were signed and then stuck in the reserves for a year or two. It took Rushie about 12 years to get into the side – or so I always tell him – and so many others too.

They’re doing it again now. Not just with the likes of Andy Robertson or Fabinho, who had six months learning the system, but players like Konate, Tsimikas, Joe Gomez even, Minamino.

Look around this Liverpool squad now, there’s a younger player signed in every position: Jota, Kelleher, Diaz now, and players who have come from the academy, who are now playing or on loan like Harvey Elliott, Curtis Jones, Neco Williams, Kaide Gordon and Tyler Morton.

The first team may not be getting any younger, but it’s still a healthily youthful squad. You can see some players like Diaz, Elliott, Jones and Gordan really developing and blossoming under Klopp.

But that doesn’t mean Salah, Mane and Firmino won’t be given new deals. They are in the prime of their careers now… so why throw that away?

Have Your Say! Should Liverpool break the bank to keep Salah, Mane and Firmino? Join the debate here.

Klopp has said himself he believes his front three can stay at the top level into their mid-30s, and honestly, knowing them as I do and seeing them close up, you have to agree.

Salah and Mane don’t drink. They are in the gym without fail. And they are decent people, who do as much incredible work off the pitch for their home countries that they do on the pitch for Liverpool.

I’ll ask a question about this weekend. Who will Chelsea fear most? Salah and Mane. I can guarantee Thomas Tuchel’s plans will revolve around somehow stopping the pair of them. And he’ll be needing luck with that.

In fact the final tells you an awful lot about the modern game. You look at Romelu Lukaku, and even though his track record is impeccable, it’s still been an expensive gamble Chelsea signing him.

What was he supposed to have cost, £100m? A record signing, and he’s on the bench; probably. And he’s on his way out after a year; almost certainly.

So the idea of replacing world-class players in their absolute prime, who are happy at the club and have maybe another five years in their legs, with big-money gambles just doesn’t make sense. It’s madness in fact.

I’ve always been a huge fan of Mane, rating him as highly as Salah even when Mo has been breaking every single goalscoring record in the LFC stats book (damn him).

Robbie during his Anfield glory days
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Image:

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Mane has got 108 goals now for Liverpool, the same as my old team-mate John Barnes. Barnsie was one of the greatest, in his prime one of the best I ever saw. An absolute legend , no doubt about it.

I’m not one who throws around the term legend like confetti. I’ve never used it for strikers like Suarez or Torres for instance. It should be reserved for those who make a real impact on a club’s history.

Yet if Salah is a legend – and c’mon, of course he is, he’s breaking mine and Rushie’s records left, right and centre so he must be! – then Mane is too. Neither would be the same without the other.

Tuchel will be obsessing about them, without question. The same with Pep Guardiola in the title race. Remember that documentary where he said: “Liverpool worries me”? Well I can guarantee Mane and Salah worry him.

The obvious question has to be, what happens next in their contracts? If they don’t sign, then logically, they can be sold in the summer. Would Liverpool be able to rival City next season if that happens?

Not unless they sign Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland to replace them. And as Lukaku shows, even hundreds of millions is no guarantee.

Mbappe and Haaland crossed paths in 2020

That’s the level of player they would need to replace those two. But if they can play on for five more years at least as Klopp says, why try to replace them, especially as they know Klopp’s system inside out?

That’s why I think there will be contract news eventually. And that’s why I think they’ve signed Jota, Diaz and the rest. Not to replace them, but to provide depth to allow the front line players to be rested more.

That will keep them playing longer, going further into their 30s. And eventually, when they do start to slow down, there will be an experienced player waiting to take over, with a youngster no doubt also blooded behind them.

It was always the Liverpool way, and it’s refreshing to see it happening again.

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