Sadio Mane has been hailed as “unique” by Senegal manager Aliou Cisse, ahead of his country’s 2018 World Cup opener against Poland.
Senegal begin their campaign in Russia on Tuesday afternoon, with Mane the undisputed key man for the Lions of Teranga.
The 26-year-old has become a superstar away from his homeland too, following two superb seasons at Liverpool that have brought 33 goals in 73 appearances, including one in the Champions League final last month.
He has exceeded all expectations of him, and along with Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino he is part of arguably Europe’s most devastating attacking unit.
Cisse knows exactly how important Mane’s influence is going to be to Senegal’s hopes this summer, describing the Reds’ blistering forward as one of best on the planet:
“I don’t want to say he could become one of the best players in the world. He is already one of the best—you have to stress this.
“He plays for an iconic club in Liverpool, which is one of the best clubs in Europe. He has shown he is top-notch with his club, and he has something unique.
“He’s unpredictable, at any point he can make the difference with a dribble and pass, so for me he is already one of the best players.
“He can’t be compared to any other Senegal players, even if we’ve had some major ones in the past. He’s unique and despite everything that has occurred to him in the last two or three years, he hasn’t changed.
“He’s just as humble as the first time I met him, six years ago at the Olympics.
“His mentality hasn’t changed, his behaviour to staff and his humility to federal leaders and team-mates is the same, so he’s a player who can bring a lot to the team.”
Mane is one of eight Liverpool players taking part in the World Cup, with Firmino and Dejan Lovren already in action over the weekend, but Salah still waiting to play for Egypt after missing their defeat to Uruguay.
Meanwhile, Jordan Henderson and Trent Alexander-Arnold began their campaign with England on Monday night, with the Three Lions sealing a 2-1 win over Tunisia.
Marko Grujic didn’t feature for Serbia in their 1-0 win over Costa Rica on Sunday, and neither did Simon Mignolet in Belgium’s 3-0 victory against Panama.