Sadio Mane (£10.3m) is the first midfielder to take his place in our Team of the Season.
While the Senegal international was the only the fourth-highest-scoring midfielder in Fantasy Premier League last season, his total of 231 points was more than any defender or forward managed in 2018/19.
The Liverpool winger was the most popular midfielder in our end-of-season poll, gaining 19.73% of the vote:
|Player||Number of votes||Share of vote|
After hitting the back of the net on 22 occasions in the Premier League last season, Mane was one of three players – the others being Mohamed Salah (£13.2m) and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£10.8m) – to share the Golden Boot award.
That was by far Mane’s best-ever tally for league goals scored in a single season and was more than twice as many as he managed in 2017/18 (ten).
The Senegal international’s total of 25 attacking returns (he also registered three assists) and 231 points were new personal bests in FPL.
Returning 22.4 points per million spent, Mane was the best-value premium midfield or forward option (£8.0m and above) in the game.
Salah, Raheem Sterling (£11.7m) and – only very marginally – Eden Hazard (£11.0m) were the only outfield players to register more FPL points per match than Mane (6.42) in 2018/19, meanwhile.
Mane recorded the same number of double-digit hauls as Sterling (nine) and one more than Salah managed (eight).
Just over two-thirds of Mane’s points came at Anfield, as the points breakdown table shows below:
|% of points||67.1%||32.9%|
|Points per match||8.16||4.47|
In terms of underlying statistics, Mane was unsurprisingly towards the top of the key performance indicator charts.
The Senegal international was fourth among FPL midfielders for attempts on goal and efforts on target, ranking fifth for penalty box touches.
Salah was the only player in Mane’s position to register more shots in the box and big chances than his Liverpool teammate.
No midfielder recorded as many headed goal attempts as Mane last season, underscoring the 5’9″ winger’s aerial prowess.
Over a quarter of Mane’s efforts on goal in 2018/19 were headers.
Creativity was an issue as his assists count suggests: Mane ranked joint-24th among FPL midfielders for key passes and joint-26th for big chances created.
Scoring four goals and registering eight bonus points in the first four Gameweeks of the season, Mane was the form FPL player in the first month of 2018/19.
That proved to be the high point in an inconsistent first half of the season, with Mane blanking in ten of his next 13 league appearances and missing out on a further two matches through injury.
A brace in the 4-1 win over Cardiff, two assists in the 3-0 victory at Watford and a goal in the home success over Manchester United were his only attacking returns between Gameweeks 5 and 19.
That unreliability – particularly at home, where there were six blanks in his first nine starts – was a source of frustration for his owners and captainers but his returns became more predictable in the second half of 2018/19.
It was at Anfield that Mane became a dependable asset, with the Senegalese winger delivering attacking returns for his owners in nine of his last ten home appearances – the only blank being the 2-1 home win over Spurs.
Mane averaged 9.7 points per match in those final ten home games for Liverpool, with the premium FPL midfielder banking returns of 13 points or more in victories over Watford, Burnley, Huddersfield and Wolves.
His away form was still patchy, though.
In Liverpool’s final nine away games of the season, Mane blanked on seven occasions and only pocketed attacking returns in matches against West Ham and Fulham.
That streakiness on the road was a downside throughout the whole of 2018/19, with Mane blanking in 12 of his 17 away appearances and returning only one double-digit haul away from Anfield after Gameweek 4.
Starting 2018/19 in 758,512 FPL squads, Mane’s ownership swiftly passed the two-million mark after his early-season heroics and he sat in 2.42 million Fantasy teams by Gameweek 6.
Mane’s price had risen from £9.5m to £10.0m in that time but he was back down to his original starting price again by the end of 2018 as his inconsistency saw over 1.2 million FPL managers desert the Senegalese winger.
Mane’s ownership grew every week from Gameweek 24 to 31 as his returns – at home, anyway – became more reliable, with his price returning to £10.0m by the time Spurs visited Anfield in Gameweek 32 and never again dipping below that mark.
A lack of a Double Gameweek for Liverpool saw over 100,000 FPL managers cash the Senegalese winger in but it was fitting that his ownership (2.45 million) and price (£10.3m) reached their apex in Gameweek 38.
Mane was the most-owned midfielder in the top 10k come the end of the season, sitting in 74.12% of these squads.
A price rise is inevitable for Mane next season and he could potentially be available around the £11.0m mark based on the starting price of Sterling last season (the City winger having recorded 229 FPL points in 2017/18, only two fewer than Mane managed in the campaign just gone).
The Senegal international will still very likely be cheaper than Salah next season and it could be that the Egyptian is the fall-guy for those considering a double-up on Liverpool defender instead.
Mane outscored his more expensive colleague in 2019 by 128 FPL points to 110 and, for those who regularly captain a premium option with a home fixture, he recorded fewer blanks than Salah at Anfield this calendar year (one versus three).
Even if Mane had been available (and stayed) at £11.0m in FPL this season, his rate of points per million spent would still have comfortably trumped Salah’s (21 v 19.6) – although it remains to be seen what price the Egypt international is in 2019/20.
Mane’s away form is a concern, of course, and some Fantasy managers may baulk at the idea of forking out mega-bucks for a premium midfielder who blanked in 12 of his final 15 away league appearances.
An advantage Salah may have over Mane next season is his penalty-taking responsibility, with VAR being rolled out for the first time in the Premier League and James Milner (£5.6m) perhaps becoming even more of a bit-part player given that he turns 34 midway through 2018/19.
The article we published yesterday, of course, suggests that we might not see as much of a rise in spot-kick awards as first anticipated.
One thing worth considering ahead of next season is Mane’s involvement in the Africa Cup of Nations this summer.
The Senegalese winger will be involved for his country in Egypt, with the tournament starting on June 21.
Should Senegal progress to the last four of the competition (and they are among the bookies’ favourites for the trophy) then they will have played seven competitive matches over the summer and face a final or third-place play-off in mid-July – three weeks before the start of the Premier League season.
The same goes for Salah, of course, and there may be a degree of trepidation about both Liverpool midfielders from a Fantasy perspective in the opening Gameweeks of 2019/20.
Mane started last season on fire despite participating in the 2018 World Cup but Senegal were eliminated in the group stages and were back home by the end of June.