In three of the last four league matches, Sadio Mane has been involved in highly publicized penalty decisions.
The quick and relentless Senegalese striker managed to win a 95th minute, game winning penalty against Leicester, and two weeks later did the same to Tottenham in the 75th minute.
When Mane tried the same at Villa Park on the weekend—after getting stepped on, no less—Jon Moss reached for his pocket instead of pointing to the spot. Of course, the narrative over his last two decisions—with many in the media deriding the player for “diving” (even though, like on Saturday, there was contact in every case)—Moss was always more likely to see a “dive” after such intense scrutiny. Whereas some—eh-hem—English players would be considered “cleaver,” Mane never got the same benefit of the doubt.
The yellow only sparked more commentary, including from Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola, who was eager to try to influence the referees as soon as possible. Jurgen Klopp has also had his say. And now, the player himself has weighed in.
“I think it’s a bit clever from [Guardiola] to get the attention of the referee,” Mane told The Echo, stating the obvious. “but I will just play my football like I’m always doing. I don’t pay attention to what he’s saying because it’s part of football.
“Is he worried about Liverpool? Maybe, I don’t know. You guys [media] know more than me. The only thing I can say I will be for sure ready for the team, to give everything possible, and to help my team.”
Trust us, Sadio, Pep is well beyond worried. He’s been obsessed with Klopp, the squad, and our attacking three since before we faced off in the Champions League quarterfinals in 2017/18.
Mane then turned to the issue of the penalty, perhaps saying the quiet part out loud, but he has been nothing if honest on the subject in the past.
“If it could be a penalty for sure I will ‘dive’ again. If the dive will give me a penalty then I will do it to get it back! Why not? But what Jurgen said is correct. I do not dive.
“There was contact for sure. Maybe it was not a penalty and he didn’t give it, and he gave me a yellow card. To be honest I don’t have any problem about it.
”For sure it can happen in football and we have seen many people, some diving and get penalties, some got a penalty and the referee didn’t give it. That’s football. You have to deal with it.
“It’s what I want to keep doing. If I get a penalty, yeah it’s a penalty. If no penalty, no penalty, but [it will] never anything wrong or change the way I’m playing or the way I’m doing my things.”
His comments are humorous in the fact that even the world’s best footballers don’t really know what constitutes a penalty. When is a player justified in going down to earn a penalty? And when is it soft? Or “not enough contact?” The rules seem fairly straight-forward, but the implementation never has been (and likely never will be).
Sadio then moved on to talk about The Big One.
“It will be really really important for us to get a positive result and we will be ready, spot on from the first second until the last. We will give everything possible to win.
“To be honest I don’t like to talk about City but I love to talk about Liverpool and what we’re going to do against them. We are going to play like always but give more for getting positive results and we’re looking forward to it to be honest.”
If “playing like always” means that Mane wins a controversial pen (and they’re all controversial, according the British media) that secures a victory for the lads in Red, well, I think we can live with that.