Sadio Mane has revealed that two of his former Liverpool teammates played a significant role in convincing him to join the Saudi Pro League revolution of 2023.
The 31-year-old only left Anfield for Bayern Munich a year ago, but he recently joined Al Nassr, becoming the fourth member of the Reds’ Premier League-winning squad of 2020 to move to the Middle Eastern country since the end of last season.
Jordan Henderson (Al Ettifaq), Bobby Firmino (Al Ahli) and Fabinho (Al-Ittihad) have also traded Merseyside for the Middle East, and the Senegal attacker said that the latter two had a big hand in persuading him to make that career decision.
Mane told The National: “I think first of all I spoke with Firmino for sure. I think he wanted me to come to the wrong club – I’m joking! He always called two or three times to convince me to come to Al Ahli.
“At the same time I spoke with Fabinho because he was quite close to me and he also wanted me to come to Al Ittihad, but in this time when Al Nassr came, I chose Al Nassr.”
The 31-year-old added that his mother also encouraged him to make the Saudi Arabia move, explaining: “Since I had the opportunity I spoke to my family, and they were happiest of course because it is a Muslim country.
“My mum especially encouraged me to go. My mum is Muslim like me, she was the first to vote for me to go there and my whole family was excited for me to come here so it was not hard – it is important to my faith.”
Mane’s move to the Saudi Pro League didn’t have the same shock value as Henderson and Fabinho, for instance, with the Senegal star enduring an unhappy time in Munich during his sole season at Bayern as his performances were criticised and he fell out with teammate Leroy Sane.
Religious reasons also appear to have been a central factor in him joining Al Nassr, and a friendly word from some of his former Liverpool teammates must’ve been quite persuasive as well.
Still, if you were told on 22 July 2020 – the night the Reds lifted the Premier League trophy – that four key members of the squad would be playing in Saudi Arabia within three years, you’d have found it impossible to believe.
Even after a widespread summer influx of high-profile footballing talent to the Middle East, it seems crazy to comprehend that so many glittering players are no longer involved with Europe’s major clubs.
The thing is…who could be next? We surely haven’t heard the last of the big-name signings from Saudi Pro League teams.