Liverpool fans may not be the only ones who have a traumatic history with international football, but having watched some of the club’s biggest stars—players like Daniel Sturridge and Fernando Torres—have seasons and even careers derailed while on duty with their national teams in recent years, they can get a little bit jumpy when they hear news of a knock.
“I’m fit,” insisted Sadio Mané, speaking with the club’s official website today to put to bed any lingering doubts about his status following a late substitution in Senegal’s AFCON qualifier against Namibia on the weekend. “It’s true I got a little kick in the back of the knee, but it was nothing special—it happened in the first half and I played for the rest of the game.”
Not quite the rest of the game, and in any case, it was that kick that led to early reports that Mané’s substitution in the second half had been related to injury rather than rest or a tactical switch. The player, though, insists that it was a minor knock at worst and not an injury concern, and in any case there had always been a plan to try to work in some of the younger players.
“I’d spoke with the coach and because we have new players,” said Mané, touching on the fact that Senegal had already qualified for the AFCON, giving the coach the ability to experiment. “He wanted to try and change me, so the substitution was not due to injury. The most important thing is I am here today, I am happy to be fit, and will get myself ready for Leicester.”
As for the concerned Liverpool fans, it turns out that they weren’t alone—many of Mané’s family and friends had left messages for him while he was flying back to England, worrying about his supposed injury while off on national team duty. The player, though, was quick to reassure them along with his club manager that everything was perfectly fine on the injury front.
“I told him everything was OK, I am 100% fit, and there was nothing specific,” Mané added. “After the game, I went to the airport to take a flight. When I reached Paris the following morning, I had messages on my phone with people and my family asking what happened because they saw in the press I had an injury. I said to them, ‘No, no, I am OK!’”