When Mohamed Salah signed for Liverpool this summer, he was the most expensive transfer ever for an African player. The record he broke? His current teammate, Sadio Mane’s from the season before. Of course, with top African talent comes top African honors.
Salah, in particular, has already been named African Footballer of the Year by the BBC, and Arabic Player of the Year by the Arabic Association of Sports Journalists.
Now, both Salah and Mane are on the three-man shortlist (along with another former Jurgen Klopp protege, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang) for the Confederation of African Football’s (CAF) Player of the Year award. The ceremony will be in Ghana on Thursday night, 24-hours before the Merseyside Derby in the third round of the FA Cup.
For Klopp, it was a no-brainer to allow both Mane and Salah to attend the awards.
“We have everything organised,” Klopp explained in the post-Burnley press conference. “We have two of the three best African players in our squad. We have to show them respect.
“If it had been a matchday, they wouldn’t have asked [to attend]. We sleep in a hotel, they sleep in a plane. That is all the difference.”
“For our side, it is just a sign of respect. I had Aubameyang [at Borussia Dortmund] and there is nothing more important than to go there.”
That Klopp shows such respect to his African players, past and present, is perhaps why so many top players from the continent wish to work for him. Not only has Klopp broken the record for African signings over the last two summers, but he will break the record for a third year running when Naby Keita becomes a Liverpool player on July 1st.
From a footballing perspective, it might be a short-term loss. Without Mane and Salah being at their best (or even fit, in Salah’s case), it might be difficult to move the double-decker bus that Big Sam will attempt to park in front of the goal at Anfield. But long-term, it is 100% the right decision to work with these players, and allow them to attend this ceremony out of respect to them, and their achievements.