Jurgen Klopp has recalled his first impressions of Sadio Mane and admits he was ‘wrong’ about the now Liverpool star following their first meeting.
Klopp came across the forward for the first time during his time in charge at Borussia Dortmund, but admits to being underwhelmed by his initial impression of Mane who he described as ‘looking like a rapper just starting out’.
The German decided against making a move for Mane before he later joined Southampton, where his performances in the Premier League persuaded Klopp to sign the Senegalese star for Liverpool in the summer of 2016.
The 27-year-old has since established himself as one of the finest attacking talents in world football and has thrived under the German’s management on Merseyside, with Klopp admitting he was ‘wrong’ about Mane following their first meeting several years previous.
“I remember my first encounter with Sadio,” Klopp says in Rakuten documentary, ‘Made in Senegal’.
“It was in Dortmund. There was a really young guy sitting there. His baseball cap was askew, the blond streak he still has today.
🇸🇳 Sadio Mane is currently building a hospital in his home town in Senegal.
🏫 It will open in 6 months time and comes after he built a school there last year.
👏Incredible impact on his community. pic.twitter.com/y6v0ZsO4Sf
— SPORF (@Sporf) April 8, 2020
“He looked like a rapper just starting out. I thought, ‘I don’t have time for this’. Our team back then really wasn’t bad. I needed someone who could handle not being a starter at the very beginning, someone I could develop.
“I’d say I have a pretty good feeling for people, but was I wrong! I followed his further career and continued success at Salzburg. In Southampton he just dominated.”
Speaking on the documentary, Mane revealed how a stand-out showing against his current employers persuaded Klopp to splash out £34 million to bring him to Anfield – the forward coming off the bench to score twice in a 3-2 comeback win for Southampton at St Mary’s in March 2016.
“I was at Southampton and we played against Liverpool. I was on the bench. We were 2-0 down at half-time. Coach (Ronald) Koeman sent me on to the field,” Mane recalled.
“We turned the game around and I scored twice. I was this insignificant player who had just given a huge performance.
“Liverpool was a club that notices players who tire them out, so they couldn’t say no and Klopp called my agent.”
Discussing Mane’s move to Anfield, Klopp added: “It was great. Sadio wanted to work with me as much as I did with him so it was a win-win situation.”
Mane has scored 77 goals in just 161 appearances in all competitions since joining Liverpool four seasons ago, helping the club to Champions League success last season and being named as the African Footballer of the Year for 2019.