When discussing Mane in previous years, manager Jurgen Klopp referenced his self-deprecation, hinting it might have been holding him back.
“He does not realise how good he is,” Klopp said last season – a view he recently updated.
“We all know that he’s a world-class player, and he has started realising that for himself,” Klopp said.
Humility is not limited to words and off-field deeds. After Salah signed, he took Mane’s favoured position on the right, the Senegal attacker switching wings. The sacrifice facilitated Salah’s move to a different footballing stratosphere.
For the past two seasons, Salah has been named African player of the year, Mane runner-up. Mane was the first to congratulate his friend.
“Honestly, he deserves it. I’m happy for him. Sadly, I didn’t win it – but it’s no problem. I will work harder and harder, and hopefully next time,” he said.
As with many of Liverpool’s finest recent recruits, some credit must go to Southampton, whose fans may argue it was the tough love of Ronald Koeman preparing Mane to flourish under Klopp. Mane arrived in Europe as a teenager, French club FC Metz’s relationship with Senegal’s Generation Foot Academy facilitating the move.
Then it was Southampton’s former chief scout, the late Bill Green, who first recommended Mane after seeing him at his next club RB Salzburg, the Austrian side’s high-tempo game mirroring that of Mauricio Pochettino’s former side.