Africa Cup: Jürgen Klopp’s nightmare | sports

Jürgen Klopp ordered the Liverpool staffers who have the closest affinity with Mo Salah and Sadio Mané to call the players to congratulate them on reaching the African Cup final. According to sources close to the club and the players, the coach insisted on conveying a message of harmony to the stars of Egypt and Senegal. They had to keep in mind that they represented Liverpool and they had to protect the club’s image in the world by showing mutual respect. The blood of their personal and professional rivalry must not reach the river, no matter how hot the match turned out to be. They say that Salah’s response was positive with reservations. Mané’s response was simply dry: “See you in Liverpool next week.”

The nightmare that has haunted Klopp since Christmas materialized last Thursday, when Egypt qualified to play Senegal in the African Cup final that ends this Sunday at 8:00 p.m. at the Ombelé stadium in Cameroon.

To the chagrin of the coach, fate placed the Egyptian and the Senegalese face to face, his two most unbalanced players, long faced in an underground guerrilla that has divided the locker room for years. A vitiated competition between teammates that in the liberated territory of the African Cup of national teams threatens to exhibit a confrontation that ends up derailing Liverpool from its primary objective. Klopp calculates that, given the general depression among many of the great powers of European football, this year the Champions League is a more affordable trophy than ever.

“The more you postpone the solution of certain problems, the more complicated they become,” he warned. The daily telegraph a year ago Jamie Carragher, former team captain and one of the most respected personalities at Anfield. “The lack of agreement between Salah and Mané fits into this category. Mané’s frustration has been building for months and anything can trigger it and cause it to come out.”

The malaise is the subject of a national debate in English football. Carragher, like Michael Owen, have been some of the Liverpool veterans who have publicly pointed out a disagreement that is sometimes very visible on the pitch. Mané gave Salah six goal assists in the first season they coincided (2017-18) in the Premier, according to Opta. In the following year, the goal passes from the Senegalese to the Egyptian were reduced to just one. Since then Mané has not given his partner more than two assists per season.

Two agents who work regularly with Liverpool agree that the root of the dispute was the club’s lack of tact in renewing players’ contracts.

Mané, 29, was signed to Southampton for around €40m in 2016. Salah, also 29, was signed to Roma for a similar amount in 2017. The two were given a salary of €2m. annual net euros, plus variables. However, seeing that Salah scored 32 goals in his first league season, a Premier record, the leaders rushed to start negotiations with his agent to improve his contract. In July 2018, a year after his signing, they agreed to pay him 14 million net per course. Along the way they postponed Mané, the versatile player who with his altruism and intelligence made many of the Egyptian’s goals possible. Mané continued to earn two million until 2019. Only when Liverpool conquered the Premier did they raise his salary to 10 million. But his extreme sense of pride did not forget the comparative outrage.

Mané always felt that Salah could never play like Mané, but instead he, freed from work in midfield, could score all the goals that Salah scores.

“Between these two players there is a giant problem,” former England international Trevor Sinclair warned on TalkSport. “Mané is a huge team player, while Salah plays more for himself. While the results were good, they covered the gaps with plaster, but under pressure it has been seen that their relationship is bad.

Salah and Mané have brought their teammates into two factions within the Liverpool dressing room. Each one with his supporters, more or less humorous witnesses of a contest that is approaching the outcome. From the club they assure that, as the African Cup progressed, the protagonists of the duel sent messages to their friends in Liverpool indicating that the day is coming when all pending accounts will be settled.

Nobody paid 120 million for Salah

The tension has been difficult to hide. Klopp himself admitted it after a Liverpool-Chelsea in which Mané left the field gesturing against his colleague, because he did not pass the ball to him. “Sadio cannot hide his emotions from him,” said the coach. “I like. We are individuals. We are emotional.”

A year ago, Klopp tried to solve the crisis in a clear way. Convinced that the most important player in the squad was Mané, he agreed with Liverpool that they would put Salah up for sale. The starting price was 120 million euros, negotiable. The Egyptian remained in the showcase throughout the second summer of the pandemic. But no one offered what they asked for.

Now Klopp believes that if Senegal wins the final, the situation will be difficult to manage, since Mané will be legitimized in his claims, adding one more share of tension to the rarefied coexistence of two essential footballers whose contract ends in 2023. “The anxiety It is so big that if the winter market were extended until March, Liverpool would offer them both for 50 million pounds each, and would sell the first one they pay for, ”speculates half jokingly, half seriously, an agent in regular contact with the Mersey club.

Five glorious years have covered with fantasy a harsh professional reality of internal competition, jealousy and job imbalances. Today the fate of Klopp’s Liverpool passes through Cameroon, where Sadio Mané, in charge of Senegal, will try to lift his country’s first African Cup at the expense of Mo Salah, Egypt’s indisputable reference, the only team that has reached six titles.

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