Lukaku V Mane. With the Merseyside derby coming up, it’s hard to look at either squad without fixing on the players who’ve really stood out for each. Lukaku has built himself into an attacking machine over the seasons since being dismissed from Chelsea. He’s looking for a big move as his next step. Mane, on the other hand, has shot to prominence at top level relatively recently, but with blinding results. Which is the better forward?
Lukaku v mane: Romelu Lukaku is the better attacker
Romelu Lukaku is on the verge of great things. He’s the first striker since Linekar to top twenty goals in a season in an Everton shirt. He’ll likely bag a good amount more if he stays fit. He’s one of only 5 strikers in the world to score 50 or more goals before his 23rd birthday. He joins Owen, Fowler, Rooney and Ronaldo in what’s already a pretty special sounding group.
A career total 141 club goals in 308 games at time of writing is impressive. But most came in the last 4 seasons of his career, when he grabbed 83 of them. Maybe more remarkable is how he bounced back from being something of a flop at Chelsea. Having arrived from Anderlecht the Pro League top scorer, Lukaku played most of the season for the reserves. Then he refused to hold the Champions League trophy that year, claiming he didn’t feel like a winner.
The renaissance started at West Brom. 17 goals in 35 games preceded a move to Everton. There he netteed, 15, 10, 18 and now, 21 and counting for the Toffees. Lukaku is a powerful, left footed forward. He’s played best as a lone or at least favoured, striker. This is where he differs distinctively from Mane, who works better as part of an integrated attack. Lukaku is not shy of providing support for Everton. An accusation levelled at him during his time under Mourinho at Chelsea. At time of writing, Lukaku’s created 37 chances. This is including 6 assists and 31 key passes. It’s not hard to picture him wearing a shirt like PSG or Manchester City next season. Or earning both hands on the trophy for the first time.
Lukaku is 6’3 and around 100kg. It’s easy to think of him as an old style target man. But he’s a lot more to his game. He can out muscle the likes of Cahill and Matip, but also out pace them. He can dribble to a reasonably high standard too. His bodily control under pressure, collecting and shielding the ball, is top notch. Lukaku holding up play is something Everton have come to depend on. He cuts a whole lot between the full back and centre back down the right. Meaning he’s comfortable playing from deeper positions as well as around the box. With Lukaku, it was always the inconsistency that hampered his growing into a great striker. He seems to have shrugged that off now.
Lukaku v mane: Sadio Mane is the better forward.
Mane’s ascent has been more recent, but arguably more meteoric. The Senegalese winger is just 24 and has already grabbed 83 goals in 209 games. Always from a wide position for all 4 teams. At 69kg and 175cm he’s a smaller, lighter nippier player. He’s less likely to receive the balls in key striking positions than Lukaku. Also probably more likely to create goals for himself. He’s a dribbler to a higher standard than the Belgian and suffers more fouls as a result. He also commits more fouls though.
He made for himself furst at RedBull Salzburg in 2012, having moved from Metz in France. The winger scored 31 goals in 63 games. He ended the 2013-104 season winning the domestic double in Austria, scoring 13 goals in the league that year from the wing. The way he forced his way out of the club, maybe reflects badly on his character a little. He simply stopped showing up to training and, with Salzburg facing up a crucial Champions League qualifier, mane simply didn’t show up to that either. Issues of loyalty are always a little up in the air when it comes to players and teams. For example, had the player not met the standards the club demands instead of the reverse, would they have been any less ruthless?
25 goals in 72 games overall for Southampton under Koeman woke Liverpool up to the kind of impact the African star could make. Mane rose to the challenge. To put it simply, Sadio Mane has been the decisive player in dozens of Liverpool games since joining. He’s their top scorer. He’s the player fans look to in moments of crisis to turn things around. Crucially, aside from not playing in as central a position as Lukaku, Mane plays in a team higher up the league table, with, albeit faded league title aspirations. Clubs defend differently against Liverpool than Everton. It’s arguably harder for Mane to score than Lukaku.
And he does score less. He’s netted 12 times this season with 5 assists. That’s 1 less than Lukaku. Mane has over 200 passes more than the Belgian forward though. He has a more than 10% more accurate pecentage of completed passes too. Less passes and less touches but also 16 less crosses than the Everton man. All very telling. Their shot accuracy is almost the same and, interestingly, all of their goals have come inside the box.
If Lukaku is on the ascent then so is Sadio Mane. If Liverpool fail to capitalise on their push for the Premier League title next season and fail to make the Champions League, both very possible, it seems likely bigger fish will come looking for the Senegalese winger. History tells us he’ll be ready, willing and able to jump.
Lukaku v mane. What do you think? Vote on who’s the better attacker and share among fans you think might have something to say!
Our other debates are still raging. Check out Harry Kane V Diego Costa.