- by Carl Woodward
- BBC Radio Merseyside
After working together in recent weeks to keep alive Liverpool’s quest for a historic treble, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah are poised to become international rivals again.
The duo share something of an ‘atypical relationship’ that will continue over the next 10 days while Manés Senegal and Salahs Egypt fight for a place in the 2022 World Cup final in Qatar.
The first part of a trilogy between the two nations saw Mané turn over the victory kick as Senegal beat Egypt in the Africa Cup of Nations final 2021 in Cameroon in February.
Moments after sealing his country’s first Nations Cup ever, Mane was seen with his arm around Salah’s shoulders as he comforted his Reds teammate in one of the most memorable photos from the final.
They may have been rivals on the pitch that night, but off the pitch are the friends who have played together in Liverpool for almost five years after Salah’s arrival from Roma in the summer of 2017.
However, this friendship has been tested domestically, and oddly enough, their very competitive attitudes have helped Liverpool in recent years become champions of England, Europe and the world.
Their thirst for goals is fierce and the pair have scored 251 goals among themselves since Salah’s arrival at Merseyside, where the Egyptian is behind the Senegalese with 55 goals.
His figure of 153 goals places him just five strokes behind Michael Owen, who is in 8th place in Liverpool’s goal scorer list.
Mane’s 111 figure means he has recently passed John Barnes, a player considered one of the club’s best. Mane, rightly so, can now be included in the same parenthesis as the former Reds winger.
They also top the list of African goal scorers in the Premier League, where the two men overtook Ivory Coast and Chelsea legend Didier Drogba, who scored 104 goals.
Their desire to outdo themselves is such that in some circles they have been accused of not wanting to send the ball if their teammate is in a better position.
The most famous, or perhaps the most infamous, example was when Liverpool beat Burnley 3-0 in August 2019.
Mané were furious when he was substituted 85 minutes into the game, as his team was in the lead. Turf Moor was having a great game – if anything the pouring rain seemed to be spurring him on!
In a later interview, Mané revealed that he and Salah quickly disarmed the situation after discussing the matter right after the match and showing how professional they were. Consider the topic closed.
This incident showed not only the professionalism of the two players, but also the solidarity within the Liverpool team. Success always comes first.
It was not only the goal-scoring rivalry that Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp handled so skillfully, there was also the question of what positions the duo would play.
Mané came to Southampton in 2016 as the most expensive African footballer in history, and in the first season he was deployed with great effect on the right side of the red attacks. He scored 13 goals before an injury ruled him out for the final two months of the season. .
Things changed in Mane’s second season with the arrival of Salah, as Klopp moved the Senegalese to the opposite flank – a move that paid off for both players.
The African duo continued to push each other to ever-increasing heights with the 2018/19 season as a perfect example as the two ended the Premier League campaign with 22 goals, sharing the golden boot for top scorer with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from Gabon and Arsenal , back then.
Both men deserve to show their talent on the world stage in eight months, but unfortunately only one will fulfill that dream in Qatar.
Whatever happens between Egypt and Senegal, the ‘fun duo’ will return to Liverpool, determined to fight together to end their club season by adding more silverware to Anfield’s trophy cabinet.