The former Reds captain says getting a Senegalese star back “fresh” after injury could prove very timely in the defence of a Champions League crown
Sadio Mane is “as important as Mohamed Salah” when it comes to attacking inspiration at Liverpool, says former Reds captain Phil Thompson.
Salah has been the go-to man since arriving on Merseyside, with the Egyptian seeing his stock rise rapidly since completing a switch from Roma.
Two Premier League Golden Boots have been added to his collection, but Mane claimed a share of one of those in 2018-19.
The Senegal international also collected the 2019 African Player of the Year award ahead of a club colleague and finished fourth in the last Ballon d’Or vote.
His value is not lost on those around him at Liverpool, or followers around the world, with another 16 goals added to his impressive tally this term.
The most recent of those came against Norwich, as he returned from injury to make a match-winning contribution, and Thompson admits Mane’s return could not be more timely.
“With him being out for a while, he has become as important as Mohamed Salah in terms of goalscoring this season. He has been nothing short of top class so you want him to be available.
“You could have seen him being on the bench with the Champions League game coming up on Tuesday, but whether we would have been winning or losing, he would have been coming on to gain the relative game time.
“How fresh he looked will have warmed the heart of every Liverpool fan and probably the most of his team-mates too. He had this energy in his legs, which was an added bonus to Liverpool winning the game.”
With Mane back up to full speed, Liverpool’s attention has shifted away from their dominance of the Premier League title race and towards the defence of their Champions League crown.
A meeting with Atletico Madrid is next on the agenda there, with the first leg of a last-16 encounter set to take place in Spain on Tuesday, with Thompson expecting Klopp’s side to successfully navigate another tough test.
He added: “This Liverpool team is made of different stuff. Everybody thinks it will be all-out attack.
“There have been plenty of games where Jurgen Klopp and his staff have sussed out a team and set up their shape to engage at just over halfway.
“Liverpool could go for it and press quite high or they could sit in and draw them in because of their reputation, looking to hit them on the counter.
“Overall, it is a really intriguing match. Liverpool cannot play any other way than to attack at the return leg at Anfield.”