Jurgen Klopp has paid an emotional tribute to ‘one of Liverpool’s greatest players’ and an ‘modern-day icon’ of the club after Sadio Mane completed his move to Bayern Munich – but said he ‘can’t pretend’ it isn’t a huge loss to his team.
Klopp said the Senegalese forward, a key part of a ruthless and devastating front three at Anfield, had helped make all of the club’s recent success possible.
Mane won the Champions League, Premier League, FIFA Club World Cup, UEFA Super Cup, FA Cup and Carabao Cup during his six-year stay on Merseyside.
‘It’s a big moment. There is no point in anyone trying to pretend otherwise,’ Klopp said.
‘One of Liverpool’s greatest ever players is leaving and we must acknowledge how significant this is.
‘He leaves with our gratitude and our love. He leaves with his status among the greats guaranteed. And, yes, he leaves in a moment where he is one of the best players in world football.
Jurgen Klopp has paid an emotional tribute to Sadio Mane after he left for Bayern Munich
Mane has put pen to paper on a three-year deal worth £250,000-a-week at the Allianz Arena
The Senegalese won the 2019 Champions League and the Premier League title a year later
‘But we must not dwell on what we now lose, instead celebrate what we were privileged to have.
‘The goals he scored, the trophies he won; a legend, for sure, but also a modern-day Liverpool icon.’
Mane has put pen to paper on a three-year contract worth £250,000-a-week at the Allianz Arena after opting to swap Merseyside for Munich.
The Senegal star, who arrived at Anfield from Southampton in 2016 for £34m, played his last match for the Reds in the Champions League final defeat by Real Madrid.
‘Since he first stepped through the door, he made us better,’ added Klopp.
‘If someone had told us in that moment what he would go on to contribute and achieve for this club, I’m not sure it would have been possible to comprehend in that moment. Not the scale of it at least. Sadio made it all possible.
‘To be that good for such a sustained period and continuously improve season on season – no matter how high he set his own bar in the previous one – is an example to any player anywhere on the planet that professionalism and dedication leads to reward.
Mane played his last game for Liverpool in the Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid
‘I respect completely his decision and I’m sure our supporters do also. If you love LFC, you have to love Sadio – non-negotiable. It is possible to do this while accepting our loss is Bayern’s gain.
‘We wish him nothing but success in every match he plays in, unless, of course, it’s against us. His star will continue to rise, I have no doubts.
‘I remember last season I was asked, in an interview or Q&A from memory, to describe Sadio in three words. I said at the time it’s not possible to do this.
‘If I was to try I’d need to be allowed multiple attempts – because there are so many ways you can describe him using three words.
Mane will work under new manager Julian Nagelsmann as Bayern chase another title
‘World-class player! ‘True club legend! ‘Ideal role model! ‘The perfect teammate! ‘Compassionate, caring person!
‘But the three words that feel the most appropriate today are also the hardest to say, “Will miss you!”
Klopp’s gushing statement is a rare example of a manager heaping praise on a player who openly expressed a desire to leave.
Mane hinted before the Champions League final in Paris that his future may lie away from Anfield and then confirmed his intention to leave less than 24 hours after the full-time whistle.
In a farewell interview with Liverpool, Mane added: ‘Obviously it is strange – really, really strange – to no longer be a Liverpool player after six years spent at Anfield.
Mane lifts the UEFA Super Cup in 2019 – a match against Chelsea in which he scored two goals
‘But of course I had a great time, an unbelievable time, and since my first day I really, really enjoyed training, playing, at Anfield especially and in front of these amazing supporters. Now it’s come to the end, so what can you say?
‘I think whoever is leaving Liverpool, with those supporters you will always miss them because so far [they are] the best in the world and I have always said it.
‘I would love one day to come back to Anfield to say hi to them and of course to watch Liverpool playing because for me, I am going to be Liverpool’s No.1 fan – after the supporters!’