Both the Liverpool forward and his Bayern Munich counterpart are out of contract in the summer of 2023, and a meeting which took place in Mallorca has got plenty of people talking
It was inevitable that it had to happen at some point.
Such has been the fuss around Mohamed Salah’s Liverpool future virtually ever since an interview with Spanish media some 18 months ago, the sound of the clock ticking on Sadio Mane’s Reds deal has been somewhat muffled.
And until the pair went away to the Africa Cup of Nations in January, that billing was fairly deserved.
Salah headed to Cameroon as the in-form forward in world football. He looked unstoppable and it was to him that Liverpool were looking to for their goals and their inspiration.
By contrast Mane was suffering a notable dip in form from his 2019-20 Premier League-winning best, and it had become impossible to ignore.
His goal at Chelsea in the final match before he and Salah headed away to AFCON was Mane’s first in 10 appearances, and it was swiftly followed by Salah’s 23rd in 26 games in 2021-22 as if to underline who was the main man.
But then it was Mane who pipped Salah to glory in the final penalty shootout, and ever since the pair’s fortunes have been somewhat reversed as the Senegalese has come to the fore. He has scored 11 since coming back from Cameroon while Salah has seven, three of which were penalties.
All of which pales into insignificance when it comes to the wider picture of keeping Liverpool on track in this most chaotic of seasons of course, with both Salah and Mane regularly contributing more than just goals to that ongoing party, but there has been a notable character shift.
And so Mane’s contract situation was sure to be noticed.
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In that light, Monday’s reports that the forward’s agents have met with Bayern Munich probably shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, even if there is more to the meeting than initially meets the eye.
For months Mane and his people are likely to have been keeping an eye on how Salah’s protracted negotiations with Liverpool play out, with both star players aware that this contract should be the contract of their careers and commensurate to their standing in the game.
Although both are near the top of the world, Salah has long been considered ahead of his teammate, only for the last few months to see Mane get the better of him twice on the international stage – as well as score goals in the Champions League quarter and semi-finals – to suddenly overtake him in the Ballon d’Or conversation.
Whereas Mane’s camp were perhaps once willing to sit back and wait to see what Salah’s offer was, to then maybe look for a deal at around 80 to 90 per cent of that, there is now a real argument that the pair deserve parity from their clubs, and that is a live issue for Liverpool at a time when there is so much more going on.
To both players’ credit there has been little dissenting noise coming from their direction in amongst the contract sagas, with Salah regularly insisting he would like to stay and Mane maintaining radio silence.
Talks have continued in the background, but the revelation that Bayern met with Mane’s people, the ROOF agency, in Mallorca last week has suddenly got tongues wagging.
The German giants are likely to maintain an interest in Mane’s situation, because who wouldn’t, but you only have look at their long list of clients to indicate that these Mallorca talks would have covered a wide range of subjects.
Indeed, it is believed it was the future of Bayern’s own winger Serge Gnabry which was one of the topics of the discussion, not in fact a move for Mane. Goal.com also report that Bayern’s interest in RB Leipzig’s Konrad Laimer, another ROOF client, was on the table too.
Gnabry, the former Arsenal youngster, is also out of contract in the summer of 2023, and the German international’s situation can be tied to that of his fellow ROOF client.
At 26 and with come impressive performances in his back catalogue, Liverpool are sure to be aware of Gnabry’s qualities and potential availability. They’ll understand the complexities around his contract ticking down because they are experiencing it with Salah and Mane themselves, not to mention Roberto Firmino.
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ROOF – who also represent the likes of Kai Havertz, Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Liverpool’s Naby Keita, another out of contract in just over a year – are key players here, and perhaps they see it as beneficial to their clients if interest can be drummed up from other clubs, and even encourage the idea of a swap deal.
That isn’t likely to appeal to Liverpool though.
It was once an imperative goal for the Reds to find a succession plan for Salah, Mane and Firmino, but in Diogo Jota and Luis Diaz they have gone down the route of supplementing their old firm attack rather than replacing them.
It is probably true to say that in a different footballing landscape then one or both of Salah and Mane may have gone already, but the fitness levels and professionalism of both should now mean that Liverpool have no qualms about keeping both well into their 30s.
That remains the most likely possibility, but keeping an eye on talents such as Gnabry should not be neglected either.
Mane will have to be replaced some day, as will Salah, but there should be little desire to do so just yet.