Much has been said about Sadio Mané’s blistering start to his Liverpool career. There are signs that the Senegalese forward has overcome a recent dip in form and is rediscovering the lethality that caught so many eyes during the first few weeks of the season, even as he prepares to take a temporary leave of absence from the club in order to participate in the Africa Cup of Nations.
Mané is, by all accounts, the model professional in training. In interviews, he’s shown himself to be gracious to his manager and to his teammates, and when discussing upcoming matches, is level-headed almost to the point of banality - asked about the upcoming Merseyside derby, Mané said “I think we can do it.” He mostly stays out of the headlines, yet clearly has a streak of playful mischief in him, nowhere more evident than in his penchant for mimicking his teammates’ goal celebrations.
In his tendency to credit those around him for the speed at which he has acclimated himself to this Liverpool side, Mané can come off as a bit of a cypher, but in a recent interview with the Daily Mail, he shed some light on what he feels sets Jürgen Klopp apart from other managers, and also offered a glimpse of his priorities outside the world of football.
“What's different about Klopp? That's a good question,” said Mané. “The big difference is that he is very close to his players and they feel close to him. It is the human touch. The players work for him and want to win for him. The forwards love the fluidity in attack.
“What he is good at is pushing players to do their best. He drives everybody on as a team. He likes the players and the players all appreciate him as well.”
The interview also makes mention of Mané’s plans to help the community from which he came, including purportedly paying for the reconstruction of a local mosque and discussions about more concerted philanthropic efforts in Senegal.
“One of the things that has pushed me on in life ever since I was young is that I want to give something back specifically to my region,” said Mané. “I am in discussions with colleagues in Senegal. I am young now but it is something that will be happening very shortly.”
Given his importance to Liverpool’s campaign this year, there are serious questions as to how the club will manage once Mané departs for international duty in mid-January, especially with Philippe Coutinho likely to be slowly eased back into action following injury. It’s almost a given that Liverpool will at least test the market for certain players in January, which would be a slight novelty given the caution the club have recently shown during the mid-season window.
When it was suggested that his absence might pose a problem for Liverpool, Mané once again showed his humility. “I'm sure that without me,” he said, “the boys here will be even better.”