a flawless departure from a big club in 2022

It’s nearly impossible in your modern football world where tribal madness conquers all reason, but has Sadio Mane just pulled off the perfect exit from the big club?

Admittedly, the general reaction from Liverpool fans suggests he is about to nail it as you would expect. There are fringe splurges, of course, because football fans are still human with all their quirks and quirks, but overall the Reds’ reaction seems to be landing in the same places again and again. Disappointment, gratitude, memories of the good times and a healthy dose of understanding. I would say that when you leave a football club, those are the specific emotions that you want to evoke.

Even disappointment is not a negative emotion here; if there is no disappointment when you leave then there can only have been disappointment when you were there. And it is certainly worse.

Mane played that very well indeed. He didn’t just exhaust his contract and let him go free, which would have been perfectly understandable. Liverpool have money and the fans have ammunition whenever the final round of the Great Net Spending War gets started.

He also, and this seems very important, went to a Proper Club in another country. Joining Bayern Munich is very different from when various players took the money to go to China a few years ago. Liverpool, being one of the most suitable clubs themselves, can of course understand why a player so proud to wear his shirt would feel the same about your Bayern Munich. There’s a dignity to it, a history and a tradition that makes the talk of “new experiences” and “different challenge” ring true. All of that is far more palatable than joining, say, PSG.

By the way, what’s interesting here is that while fan reactions have on the whole been really quite sane, the large number of Liverpool-adjacent gobshites who dominate football’s punditocracy have generally lost all their little mind about it.

Michael Owen, who left Liverpool for Real Madrid, simply couldn’t understand why a player would do such a thing. Dean Saunders, whose post-Liverpool CV includes Aston Villa, Sheffield United and Bradford City, said proudly that leaving Anfield and going to play for Bayern Actual Munich is a waste of his career.

Even those who make a perfectly reasonable point about the relative greenery of the post-Liverpool grass for recent top-flight departures must make room in their thoughts for Philippe Coutinho, whose Barcelona career was admittedly horribly awful, but so terrible that it also featured him scoring twice in an 8-2 win over Barcelona en route to winning the Champions League for, uh, Bayern Munich.

Liverpool trio Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino

And then there are Mane’s own words as he broke his silence on his move to Bayern and how he felt about Liverpool. There was praise for the supporters, with the phrase “I’m going to be Liverpool’s No.1 fan – after the supporters!” an absolutely classic crowd pleaser alongside one of his 120 goals for the club. “I will always love this club almost as much as you, the best fans in the world” is a sentiment football fans will always drink in.

Keeping his house in Liverpool is another nice touch, although an empty house in the middle of a housing crisis is not the one. Knowing Mane, however, he’ll probably put him out to a local housing charity, as he seems very much like that.

He also spoke fondly of Mo Salah and Roberto Firmino and, above all, of the new members of this frontline in Diogo Jota and Luis Diaz.

He tells Liverpool fans that everything will be fine. They’ll be fine without him and all the goals he’s scored – as an obvious aside, scoring all those goals and winning all those trophies before he leaves the club is another way to help (but not guarantee) a start in good terms. They now have new players. Other players. Not necessarily better players, but still very good players. Don’t worry, Sadio is telling those Liverpool fans he loves as long as it’s alright.

And you know what? He’s right about that too. Which I guess also helps make his departure a little more manageable for everyone. Well, everyone except Dean Saunders.

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