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Champions League

Sadio Mane hit with daunting new challenge from Jurgen Klopp after AFCON triumph

Mane was Senegal’s hero in the penalty shootout win over Mohamed Salah’s Egypt in the AFCON final, which has put him head of the queue for individual honours this year

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Jurgen Klopp provides team news update ahead of Burnley clash

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Jurgen Klopp has challenged Sadio Mane to become a Ballon d’Or contender after leading Senegal to AFCON glory.

Mane was his country’s outstanding performer as they became African champions for the first time – and showed nerves of steel by stepping up to score a penalty in the shoot-out victory over Mo Salah’s Egypt despite missing from the spot during the game.

But Klopp believes the 29-year-old striker might need to do more this season if he is to challenge Salah, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Robert Lewandowski for the title of the world’s best player.

“I have no idea,” admitted Klopp when he was asked if Mane’s heroics in Cameroon should propel him into a contender for the prestigious Golden Ball.

HAVE YOUR SAY : Who will win the 2022 Ballon d’Or? Have your say in the comments below.

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Jurgen Klopp feels Sadio Mane has a chance to win this year’s Ballon d’Or


Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

“I think it depends a lot about the season – and usually you have to win the Champions League.

“I can’t remember who votes for what, but that’s how it seems to work.

“But I couldn’t have more respect for what Sadio did.

“He is, for sure, now one of the biggest Senegal legends of all-time – and rightly so.

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“The pressure on his shoulders was absolutely incredible.

“I usually have no problem with facing pressure but, when he walked to the penalty, I thought that was a really difficult moment in life!

“He faced it, he mastered it, and rightly got all the praise.

“He was the best player of the tournament. An incredible achievement for him, an incredible achievement for Senegal.”

Mane will return for the clash with Burnley at Turf Moor after being granted time to celebrate in his homeland.

He has just over a year left on his contract – but Klopp insists he can still get better and is not past his peak.

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Klopp said: “We just thought it’s absolutely right to let Sadio to celebrate as long as he wants.

“We all know Sadio doesn’t drink a sip of alcohol, so it’s not that he was running around through the city and doesn’t know where he wakes up.

Mane was Senegal’s hero in the AFCON final penalty shootout win over Egypt


AFP via Getty Images)

“It was a massive thing. I saw the pictures with the president of Senegal, the people in the streets, it’s a massive achievement.

“It makes it even more funny what people made of my earlier comments this year.

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“It was the big tournament – we knew before – and for Sadio it was the biggest of his life or his life so far.

“For him as a person, 100% he made a massive step.

“He was a great player, a world-class player when he left here for the tournament, but he comes back as a leader on a different level, I have to say.”

Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane have returned to Liverpool training

Klopp added: “It is difficult to improve on the level that Sadio is already at.

“Lewandowski was born in ‘88 or ‘89. So he is 32 or 33. Then there’s Messi and Ronaldo at 34 and 36 or 37.

“The massive advantage of being in your early-30s and mid-30s is that as a player you can see things in the right way if you have learned throughout your career.

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“He can use that and become an even better player that he was two or three years before.

“Clubs think differently. They look at a player aged 32 or 33 and think ‘we cannot sell him anymore.’

“But if they are already inside the club then that’s outstanding because they already have experience and desire and quality.”

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