Sadio Mane has admitted that it will be difficult to leave Liverpool for the 2017 African Cup of Nations next January – but believes the team will cope fine without him.
The 24-year-old moved to Merseyside from Southampton in the summer for a fee in the region of £34 million and has enjoyed a great campaign so far under manager Jurgen Klopp.
Having scored eight goals, including the 94th minute winner against rivals Everton on Monday, Mane is currently the Reds’ top goalscorer in the Premier League and has also provided four assists for his teammates at Anfield.
Klopp’s team – who are six points behind league leaders Chelsea – have been praised for their ruthlessly attacking system this season, with Mane’s speed, agility and dribbling being a key asset to that.
“It will not be easy for me to go with Senegal next month,” he said, as reported by the Guardian. “I would love to carry on playing with my team- mates and help my team but I think they will understand because it is my country and it is my dream.
“I will be wishing them good luck but without me the team will be the same, even better. They will cope. [Philippe] Coutinho will come back. [Joel] Matip will come back and [Daniel] Sturridge is back now.
“I am very happy for him. It has not been easy for him being out. He has had a lot of injuries but you know he can deliver important performances. That is why the team will be strong.”
The 2017 AFCON will take place in Gabon between January 14th and February 5th. Senegal qualified with a 100% record, meaning that Mane’s nation are among the favourites to win the tournament.
Liverpool centre-back Matip has stated that he does not wish to represent his country, Cameroon, at the competition after negative experiences with the international team in the past.
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