Despite their success this season, Chelsea are one of several top sides in the Premier League that will be looking to bolster their attacking options this summer.
They, as well as Arsenal and Liverpool, boast one terrific striker each. However, all three teams have suffered in front of goal to a degree when Diego Costa, Olivier Giroud, and Daniel Sturridge respectively have been forced to spend time on the treatment table.
Therefore, the trio will be looking to recruit a goalscorer that can take the mantle should their main men fail to find fitness once again.
The obvious stumbling block is the price that it would take to sign a top goalscorer. Last year’s Golden Boot winner Luis Suarez left the Premier League after the World Cup for £75m. Financial fair play regulations would make such a sum almost impossible for any of the sides to spend on one player.
However, there is an answer that is waiting in the wings, and took a giant step into the spotlight yesterday and cemented his name into the pantheon of Premier League history by bagging the competition’s fastest hat-trick ever. His trio of goals against Aston Villa came in just two minutes 56 seconds.
His name may not carry the same glamorous reputation as some of the showstoppers of world football, but Sadio Mane is threatening to become one of the league’s stars.
But should the top clubs take a chance on a player that has had one good season at Southampton? Here’s some of the considerations that may help fans decide whether he could do a job for their side:
Mane turned 23 this month, so is now around the age when wingers begin to combine experience and the exciting prospect of raw talent to produce their best years. He has plenty of seasons ahead before he has to start adapting his game to compensate for any attributes that tail off as he gets older.
Southampton have been praised for their dynamism this season. Their full-backs have flown down the line to lay on chances for Graziano Pelle. But, without Mane, the Saints would be very one dimensional, as they lack the pace that can link the solid midfield pair of Morgan Schneiderlin and Victor Wanyama to the more attacking-minded members of the squad.
Mane has the ability to turn defence into attack in the blink of an eye.
His finishing is surprisingly polished for someone so used to playing from the wing. He displayed against Villa his ability to direct shots first-time into an area where a goalkeeper as good as Shay Given can’t get to.
The Senegalese is perhaps better known as a winger, however, he has plenty of experience playing as a striker, and so boasts a fairly impressive goalscoring record throughout his career. At previous club Red Bull Salzburg, he managed 31 league goals, at nearly a strike every two games. And his first season at St Mary;s has been fruitfultoo, scoring 10 times in 29 games, including yesterday’s blistering hat-trick.
How does he compare with Chelsea’s, Liverpool’s, Arsenal’s current options? And could he fit into their sides?
There is little doubt the trio of Costa, Sturridge, and Giroud would remain their clubs’ respective first-choice strikers. However, Mane has the quality and versatility to fill anywhere across the front three, depending on where he is needed. His finishing is strong enough that he would be able to find the back of the net anywhere, and his anticipation has led to plenty of goals for the Saints this year. He has only hit the back of the net on four fewer occasions than PFA Player of the Year Eden Hazard.
In particular, his performance at Stamford Bridge – where Ronald Koeman’s men came away with a 1-1 draw in March – gave the Chelsea defence a headache, and it was he that won Southampton’s penalty, as he got away from Nemanja Matic. But Saints fans will be able to list many more games when Mane has been the star.
None of the three sides are looking for their new 30-goal-a-season star, but they need someone willing to grasp the chance when the opportunity arises, as all three sides lack the depth they ideally would like. With an arc of potential as large as Mane’s, surely the Premier League’s top sides need to take a punt on developing the world-beater that is threatening to become.