The Senegal forward was almost tempted to Old Trafford but says Jurgen Klopp helped convince him Merseyside was the right destination
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Sadio Mane has come a long way since joining Liverpool three years ago – but things could have been very different if he had signed for Manchester United.
And while that may sound like a Liverpool fan’s horror story, it wasn’t far from coming true.
Ahead of Saturday’s Champions League final with Tottenham, the 27-year-old admitted that he came close to signing for United after his final season with Southampton.
“I was really, really close because I even met up with them,” he told the Mirror.
“So I was coming, I was there and I spoke with the boss who was there before (Louis van Gaal).
“They made an offer, but in the same week, [Jurgen] Klopp called me.
“He said: ‘I think it’s the right club. The right coach for you, and I think it’s better that you go to Liverpool’.
“For me I think it was the right time as well. I said, ‘I am going to Liverpool.’”
In a blistering 2015-16 season with Southampton, Mane caught the attention of the Premier League’s biggest clubs with some standout performances, including scoring a brace against Liverpool and a hat-trick against Manchester City.
Some fans at the time joked that Klopp signed Mane just so Liverpool wouldn’t have to play against him – and Mane enjoyed the suggestion, saying the theory could have some truth to it.
“At that time, leaving Southampton, I saw many clubs, but I thought Liverpool was the right club for me,” he said.
“I played against Liverpool, I played against City, United, every team and I scored a lot against Liverpool when I was at Southampton, but still I thought this club is my club!
“The boss (Klopp) was at Liverpool and yet I always scored against them. I think he thought: ‘He’s always killing us, so let’s buy him!’ Yeah, just to stop me scoring against Liverpool – so it was good for us both!”
When Liverpool endured a sluggish start to the 2018-19 season, there were rumours that Mane and strike partner Mohamed Salah had suffered a breakdown in their relationship.
It had been suggested that there was a growing conflict between the two players but Mane laughed off these suggestions, adding that any rivalry between them was totally friendly.
“This kind of thing, it happens in football,” he said.
“It doesn’t matter if I score or not as long as the team scores.
“Some people want to say it’s a rivalry, but I think that’s what makes football so exciting – a rivalry. But it really doesn’t matter to me. Honest!”