Jurgen Klopp has admitted he has “mixed emotions” after Sadio Mane helped Senegal secure a place in the quarter-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations.
Mane scored his second goal of the tournament in Thursday’s 2-0 victory over Zimbabwe, sealing the Lions of Teranga’s place in the next round in Gabon.
This ensured the 24-year-old will remain with the Senegal squad until at least January 28, and he is unlikely to return before the end of the month at the earliest.
As a result, Mane will miss Liverpool’s next three fixtures, against Swansea City, Southampton and Wolves, and likely the clash with Chelsea on January 31.
Liverpool have suffered without their leading goalscorer, and speaking to reporters following Senegal’s victory, Klopp explained his conflicting interests as he watches on.
“I wrote him a message, I said ‘Sadio, I’m happy for you, but on the other hand I could really kick you in your…lower back’,” he joked.
“Of course, they are through, that’s good. He scored again, played well again.
“He had a little difficult situation where we all thought ‘ahh’, but it’s good, I texted him last night.
“So, yeah, mixed emotions maybe is the best description.
“But as long as he’s fit and everything, we take it like it is and support Senegal.”
Liverpool have been embroiled in a dispute with another Africa Cup of Nations hopeful in Cameroon, however, with Joel Matip withdrawing himself from selection.
The 25-year-old is believed to have retired from international duty, but Cameroon insist they did not receive written confirmation of this.
As a result, Klopp is waiting for a decision from FIFA as to whether he can select him for the duration of tournament—but he stressed that this has not changed his view on its value.
“We knew about the Africa Cup of Nations before [the season], it’s the same for all teams with African players,” he explained.
“The Matip case is obviously special for us, and we of course do not feel that it’s fair.
“But we do what we can and we cannot change it, we cannot turn it in our direction because we want it.
“It’s another experience, actually, which we don’t need, but we have to learn from it, and that’s what we’ll do.
“But it’s not about the Africa Cup of Nations—after everything I’ve said about this it’s like I have problems with [the tournament], but absolutely not. It’s the opposite.
“I have a lot of respect for what they are doing there, in the most difficult circumstances still, and it’s a great tournament—in the middle of our season!”