Sadio Mané sat down with Dominic King of the Daily Mail this week, opening up on his injury recovery, his childhood in Senegal and how he stays healthy.
Sadio Mané is genuinely one of my favourite players in world football.
Not just because he’s a boss footballer – which of course we all know he is – but also his humble nature, positive frame of mind and the fact he always seems to have a smile on his face.
The Senegalese speedster scored 13 goals in an impressive debut campaign on Merseyside after arriving for £30m last summer and while he’s all hustle and bustle on the pitch, he’s seemingly a picture of relaxation off it. Dom King of the Daily Mail found this out when he sat down to interview him this week.
Beginning with the winger’s exploits on the pitch, King asks him to describe what was going through his mind when he shrugged off two Arsenal defenders on the opening day of the 2016/17 season, before cutting inside onto his left foot and rifling the ball past a helpless Petr Cech.
‘I remember having this high energy when I got the ball on the wing,” he starts.
“I saw the defender (Calum Chambers) coming to me so I tried to slow down. Why? I knew I could go quicker than him. No problem.
“So when he thought I was slowing down, I let him come. Within one metre? That was it. I left him back. I stopped running a little bit and then… I go! One metre for me to go quick, then he has no chance to stop me.”
Mané’s combination of pace and surprising strength became a huge asset for the Reds last season and was a key feature in many of his 13 goals with his ability to beat opposition defenders to the ball time and again vital to Klopp’s men’s success.
While for us fans, the forward’s pace and remarkable ability to run endlessly are almost unfathomable, Mané maintains that while it’s a gift he’s always had, that he still works hard to maintain.
“This is natural for me,” he explains.
“It’s not something I needed to work at. It is something God gave me. When I was in school we would always have running races. I was good at it. Always sprinting. I can run long distance too.
“I work in the gym, twice a week I do abdominals. It is very, very important. I do quick sessions as I don’t want to get big. I know my body, I know what is good for me. I have a chef who cooks for me, I like to eat healthy. I don’t drink, I’ve never tried it in my life. I’ve never smoked either.
“I always loved running, from when I was young. I never took a bag, I’d just carry my boots and run. There was never a bike. I’d get to the pitch and make six or seven laps and then get straight into it.
“I would go and meet my team and we would usually win. I was always the striker. I always wanted to win and score goals and help my team, if it came from the left, right or through the middle, it didn’t matter. I just wanted to win. It is the same now.”
While everybody involved with Liverpool Football Club is highly aware of Mané’s impact on the pitch, King reveals that he’s just as important in the dressing room. The Senegalese forward missed a tough winter period back in January due to his involvement in the African Cup of Nations and the Reds were unrecognisable in his absence, winning just one game in nine.
King reveals that Mané pulled club captain Jordan Henderson aside on his return from international duty to tell him that while he had watched every game while he was away, he “didn’t recognise” the side he saw playing. The skipper would call a club meeting after their 2-0 loss to Hull City, clearing the air and the Reds’ next result was a 2-0 home victory against Tottenham Hotspur. Fitting perhaps that Mané scored both goals.
The former Southampton man spent the summer recovering from a knee injury sustained back in April and has already hit the ground running – excuse the pun – by scoring his side’s first Premier League goal of the new campaign against Watford last weekend.
While an injury of that severity would cause many players to feel aggrieved, Mané revealed he simply got on with it and set his focus on getting himself back to full fitness in order to be ready for the start of the new campaign.
“When you are a professional, you have to be ready for anything,” he says.
“Sometimes it is down, sometimes it is up. When I got the injury, it wasn’t easy for me. I wanted to be fit all season and help my team-mates. I had to find a way I could recover quickly.
“Mum came to stay with me and that helped. Before pre-season, I had one week for holidays and I went back to Senegal but even then I went with the doctor. I did three sessions with him, so really I have only had four days holiday! You can have holidays after. Nothing else matters.”
You can read the full interview transcript here, including whether Sadio is targeting the African Player of the Year award and how he hopes to improve this coming campaign.