Sadio Mane didn’t have have the best start to the season. With Mohamed Salah having a scintillating start to the season, Mane found himself struggling to keep up for a spell. December in particular was not a great month for the Senegalese international but Jürgen Klopp believes that Mane is back to his highest level after scoring in two pivotal wins for the Reds.
“At Burnley he scored a fantastic goal but it was not a world-class game of Sadio,” Klopp said to the club website on Sunday.
“Since then it has clicked and he is now really back. He works hard, he protects the ball pretty well, no risky dribbling, and he is a world-class player.
“The two goals he scored [against Burnley and City], I don’t know a lot of players who could have scored these goals.”
Mane faced a lot of criticism in December, particularly for squandering a chance during the Premier League matchup against Everton when a simple pass to Salah would’ve resulted in a clear goal and doubled the Reds’ lead. Instead, Mane chose to take the shot himself and missed in disappointing fashion, uncharacteristically.
“I like to be honest and I don’t want to say Sadio was brilliant when he wasn’t. Everyone could see that he struggled a bit here, it didn’t look like it was too easy for him,” said Klopp of that moment.
“After the Everton game when he didn’t pass the ball, everybody made a big criticism of him.
“I didn’t mention it, to be honest. I didn’t mention it at half-time, I didn’t mention it after the game, it was not mentioned in any meeting because I saw in Sadio’s eyes that if he could turn the clock backwards he would do it.
“At that moment he was convinced he would score, he was a striker and a striker has to make a decision. I want him to make these decisions, but sometimes you have to accept that these decisions are wrong.
“I accept it. As long as you don’t do the same in the next 20 similar situations so that people start thinking: ‘What’s that about?’ You cannot play football without mistakes. He didn’t want to do it.”
Klopp asserted that he’s spoken to Mane since then and is confident that the winger is able to return to his goalscoring form, as shown by those two strikes in particular against Burnley and City. It was only a matter of time and confidence building.
“Of course we had talks. I cannot tell you what I told the player in a one-to-one meeting, but it was about what he did so far,” continued Klopp.
“Good, good, good, good, good. One or two things not that good, but the rest good. So let’s build on that and ignore the rest. That is how life is.
“You cannot think all the time about your mistakes because that makes no sense. You cannot forget all the good things. We are all a bit like that and sometimes people need help to realise again the good situation.
“He is in a fantastic situation where everyone loves him in the club. But he played from [the heart] and not from [the head] and nothing really worked out in the end.
“Now he is completely different again.”