Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has admitted that Sadio Mane returned from the Africa Cup of Nations earlier this year with some “physical struggles”.
The 30-year-old started every game for Senegal at the tournament and finished with three goals and two assists from seven games en route to the team and individual honours.
Mane has sometimes been shifted to a central role in recent weeks to accommodate new signing Luis Diaz, and the attacker bagged a brace as the focal point in Saturday’s 3-2 FA Cup semi-final win over Manchester City.
Klopp has since claimed that Mane’s physicality was evident before the Wembley trip, telling reporters: “I have known Sadio for nearly six years – he has never needed competition to be the best version of himself. He has consistently performed on an incredibly high level.
“I’m not sure bringing in Luis Diaz affected that part of his game. But playing through the centre suits Sadio very well as well.
“Sadio had some physical struggles since he came back [from AFCON]. He couldn’t use his immense physicality every few days. Before the game against City, I thought it looked like the Sadio physically [that I know] and that’s why he was able to play the game he played.”
Mane now has 18 goals to his name from 41 appearances in a Liverpool shirt this term and will battle Klopp’s other attacking options for a start in Tuesday’s Premier League meeting with Manchester United.