Sadio Mane has shrugged off continuing links with Real Madrid by insisting he is happy playing for a Liverpool side who “beat big teams”.
The Senegal international has been a reported target for Zinedine Zidane’s rebuilding project at the Bernabeu for some time.
However, Mane – the Premier League’s joint-top scorer this season with 22 goals – is focusing on Saturday’s Champions League final against Tottenham in Madrid.
“Always this is part of football, so we have to deal with it, but for me the most important thing is Liverpool and I’m happy here,” he said of the speculation.
“It’s always a pleasure that this kind of team wants (you) but don’t forget Liverpool. They beat big teams.
“I’m preparing for one of the biggest games for the club and the fans and the players as well, so let’s focus on this one first and win it.”
After the disappointment of being beaten in last year’s final by Real Madrid in the circumstances they did – losing Mohamed Salah to a shoulder injury and then conceding twice to two freakish goalkeeping errors – there is added motivation for Jurgen Klopp’s players.
And when you factor in that they narrowly missed out on a first league title since 1990, there is even more incentive for them to end the season on a high and bring home a sixth European Cup.
“We know we have targets; we want to win the league and the Champions League. We didn’t win the league but we still have one trophy to play for, so we are going to try to give everything to win it,” Mane added.
“We would love to win it (the league) but we have to take it as a positive. It will give us more motivation and even the fans as well. So let’s do it together and win this trophy.
“I think it’s just incredible and I’m so positive. Of course it (last season’s final) will help with this one because we wanted to win it and it was not the case. That’s part of football.
“At the same time I think it’s positive because many people, even you (the media), didn’t expect us to play this final.
“We did it (and) I think we learned a lot from this and now we can use our experience this season to get what we want.”
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) May 12, 2019
Mane was the main man when it came to providing the goals to sustain Liverpool’s ultimately unsuccessful title challenge in the second half of the season.
The 27-year-old scored 17 goals in 22 matches from mid-January and is bidding to become only the second Liverpool player to score in two European Cup finals, after Phil Neal, and the first to achieve the feat for the Reds in successive appearances.
But even taking into account his prolific form he admitted he needed a break, and the week off followed by a training camp in Marbella has re-energised him for Madrid.
“It refreshed everyone,” said Mane, who could also become just the eighth player to score in more than one final – the others being Gareth Bale, Samuel Eto’o, Lionel Messi, Sergio Ramos, Raul, Mario Mandzukic and Cristiano Ronaldo, who is the only player to find the net in three.
“We would have loved to have kept going straight but that is not the case and we understand how this goes in football with different competitions at the same time.
🔴 Sadio Mané = one to watch tonight?
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) May 7, 2019
“But we know how to deal with this kind of situation now. We had a few weeks to prepare the game and we are fresh again and go there with fresh legs.
“We expect a very difficult game because Tottenham is a very good team, but we are also good, so that’s an exciting game.
“We’ll see what’s going to happen, but I’m sure we will give everything to get what we want.”