Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 30 May 2020

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp thought Sadio Mane 'looked like a rapper' when they first met

German admits he was put off signing midfielder when in Germany

Jurgen Klopp concedes his misjudgment cost him the opportunity to sign Sadio Mane years before the two eventually linked up at Liverpool.

The Liverpool manager was speaking in a documentary about the Senegal striker that was to air on Wednesday, in which he says the first time he met Mane - during the German’s tenure at Borussia Dortmund - he wasn't exactly impressed.

However, Klopp kept tabs on the then Red Bull Salzburg forward, taking particular note when Mane was at Southampton, where the Liverpool head coach says he started “dominating” in the Premier League.

Klopp, who joined Liverpool in 2015, had at that point seen enough to sign Mane for £34 million (Dh153.8m) the following year. Mane, 27, has gone on to play an integral role in Liverpool’s recent success, which should culminate this season in the club’s first top-flight title in 30 years.

"I remember my first encounter with Sadio. It was in Dortmund," Klopp told Made in Senegal. "There was a really young guy sitting there. His baseball cap was askew, the blond streak he still has today. 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 continuing success in Salzburg. In Southampton, he just dominated."

Since signing for Liverpool, Mane has played 161 matches for the club, scoring 77 goals. Together with Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah, he has formed one of the most accomplished attacking triumvirate’s in world football.

In an interview with The Guardian, Mane referenced that initial meeting with Klopp, joking: “He said I was like a rapper! But I think I gave my best so what can I say? That’s part of life – you never know how you are going to get along with people.

"But I think he was wrong for sure. It was an experience for me as well, though. I knew I had to show him more until we met again …”

On Klopp’s management, which has guided Liverpool to last season's Uefa Champions League success and to the precipice of domestic glory, Mane added: “What makes him special is that he never stops believing.

"In the meeting before the [semi-final second leg against Barcelona] he was really convinced that we could do it. Even though we were missing two of the best players in the world [Salah and Firmino]. He pushed the boys hard to give everything possible and tried to take the pressure off us.”

Updated: April 8, 2020 01:47 PM

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