How Sadio Mane has united Senegal behind Liverpool
The part Sadio Mane is playing in Liverpool's season could not be more evident.
Whether it’s goals - 20 so far in all competitions - individual awards received or tributes paid by Jürgen Klopp and his teammates, the forward’s influence is clear to see.
One aspect that perhaps isn’t immediately obvious, though, is the impact his performances are having back in his native Senegal and across the African continent.
And according to his compatriot Salif Diao, that impact is enormous.
“In Senegal now, we all support Liverpool,” the former Reds midfielder told Liverpoolfc.com.
“We are very proud of Sadio being here and beating all the records, doing fantastically well. I’m even talking about the rest of Africa, where there are a lot of people following the team.
“The game has gone onto another level now and it’s really great. There are so many things going on in the background and it’s always fantastic to hear about all these different connections.”
Diao, who made 61 appearances for Liverpool between 2002 and 2005, was part of the original Senegalese golden generation that famously reached the quarter-finals of World Cup 2002, and the Teranga Lions are now enjoying their most successful era since then, with Mane at the heart of it.
The 26-year-old also finished runner-up to his club teammate Mohamed Salah as CAF African Player of the Year in January. However, Diao believes it is Mane’s performances in a red shirt which have truly captured the imagination of his fellow Africans.
“This is the part that people maybe don’t see, the game and how important it is in Africa,” Diao said.
“People there maybe aren’t in the best situation socially but when Liverpool are winning and Sadio Mane is scoring they feel part of it. You can hear people talking about it, it’s like, ‘We beat Manchester United, next year we’re going to buy this player’, and lots of other people will just be talking like it’s their team.
“Maybe it’s virtual for some people, but this is real for them, and these are the moments where, for two hours, guys can forget all of their social issues and watch a game feeling part of the team that is winning. So it’s a lot bigger than just the football.”