Egypt and Senegal face off in two decisive World Cup playoffs this month, with only one of the two African giants able to book a spot at Qatar 2022.
The tie, a replay of the Africa Cup of Nations final, pits Mane up against his long-time team-mate Mohamed Salah, which makes it a bittersweet playoff from a Liverpool perspective.
As arguably the most important players for their countries, there is an emphasis in both Egypt and Senegal for Salah and Mane to arrive for the March 25 and 29 clashes fit and firing.
And with Salah omitted from the travelling squad for Sunday’s FA Cup quarter-final win over Forest due to a minor injury, Klopp made the decision to leave Mane out too.
Speaking to reporters after the 1-0 victory, the Liverpool manager suggested this was due to the reaction to his ironic “little tournament” comment ahead of the Africa Cup of Nations, Klopp eager to avoid being “misunderstood” again.
“Mo felt the foot again, from the Brighton game,” he explained.
“Not massive, but it was clear he would not be in a game like this if he would have a little bit of pain here or there. There is no chance.
“Then, in that moment, it was clear that we would not use Sadio for the game.
“Because the game is too big in Africa and I will not be twice the one who does things like that which could be misunderstood.”
“The others were all unavailable,” he added. “Mo was unavailable, only Sadio we left out.”
"I didn't mean it like that… I didn't mean a 'little tournament'… it's ironic…"
— This Is Anfield (@thisisanfield) November 24, 2021
Back in November, Klopp attracted bizarre criticism from African journalists and supporters after ironically describing the upcoming AFCON as a “little tournament.”
“I’ve heard that so often that there’s no international break until March,” he said.
“In January, there’s a little tournament in Africa, I just want to say, and I think Asia is playing games, too – South America as well, great, can’t wait.”
That even led to one misguided journalist to confront Klopp in a follow-up press conference and demand: “I think you owe the continent an apology.”