Liverpool forward Sadio Mane has promised a “special” answer regarding his future but wants his football to do the talking in the Champions League final first.
On Saturday the Senegal international, already an Africa Cup of Nations, Carabao Cup and FA Cup winner, goes in search of his fourth major trophy this season.
It would cap a remarkable campaign for the 30-year-old but arguably the next 12 months could be just as important as his contract enters its final year.
Like fellow forwards Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino – who turn 30 and 31 in June and October respectively – plus midfielder Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, speculation has started to grow about Mane’s future.
He has already been linked with Barcelona and Bayern Munich, who look like losing striker Robert Lewandowski this summer, but ahead of the meeting with Real Madrid in Paris, Mane would not be drawn on his future.
“Honestly I think the answer I can give you now is I feel very good, and I am fully focused on Saturday’s game, that is the answer I must give before the final,” he said.
“But come back to me on Saturday and I will give you the best answer you want to hear, for sure. It’s special. I will give you all you want to hear then.
“I love what I am doing and I sacrifice myself all the time; I am working hard every single day on the pitch and in the gym and I get better and better, that’s the most important. I am trying my best to help the team.”
His words suggest there could be a positive outcome in the offing but asked what would happen should Real, who as an overseas club can start negotiating from January, come calling, Mane added: “Ha, good question, but what I want to say now is I am fully focused on the Champions League and winning it, which is far more important for me and the Liverpool fans.
“I will do everything absolutely possible to win the game for Liverpool.”
Mane, like Salah, has unfinished business in a final with Real. Unlike his fellow forward, who was forced off injured in the first half of their 3-1 defeat with the score still goalless, Mane played 90 minutes and scored the equaliser before Gareth Bale struck twice.
But also unlike his team-mate, Mane has no thoughts of revenge.
“No, I think it is not any revenge for myself. It is not even in my mind to take revenge to be honest,” he said.
“I think Mo is just talking about what Mo thinks. In the four years a lot has changed in how we play the game, our experience – we have more experience and quality in the team.
“I think we all forgot about what happened in 2018; for sure Real Madrid were the better team and deserved to win the game. But it is going to be a different game.”
A decent individual performance in the final would elevate Mane’s chances of winning the Ballon d’Or, having already been so influential in Senegal’s success earlier this year.
Mane is hoping to be only the second African after George Weah to win the accolade, although Salah will also provide competition for him.
“It’s true. If you guys say it, what can I say myself? Which is sad,” said Mane on the lack of African winners.
“This cup, the Africa Cup of Nations is one of the biggest for myself, it is the biggest trophy I have won in my life, and for an African player not to have won the Ballon d’Or since George Weah it is sad for sure.
“Winning the Champions League is special. I have a chance to play it again and we will do everything we can to win it and then we will see what happens, with the Ballon d’Or.”