“I feel sad for him” – Van Dijk laments Sadio Mane’s World Cup absence

Virgil van Dijk has lamented the absence of Sadio Mane at the World Cup, detailing how he made a call to his former teammate when the news broke.

Mane is one of a number of big names to miss the World Cup due to injury, almost as if a mid-season tournament was not the best of ideas.

The 30-year-old has been at the heart of Senegal’s recent success after lifting the Africa Cup of Nations in February before sealing a World Cup place in March.

But manager Aliou Cisse is to be without Senegal’s all-time top goalscorer after an injury in Bayern Munich’s penultimate game before the tournament, meaning a reunion with Van Dijk is off the cards.

The Netherlands meet Senegal in their first game of Group A on Monday and ahead of the match, Van Dijk revealed he made a call to Mane after he heard the news.

“Yes, I called him [immediately after the injury],” Van Dijk told reporters in Qatar.

Sadio Mane and Virgil van Dijk of Liverpool celebrates scoring the first goal during the Premier League match at Anfield, Liverpool. (Image: Andrew Yates / Sportimage)

“I wanted to know how he was because there were so many rumours.

“Unfortunately at the time, it was not the best news. I feel sad for him, I know how hard he works for this, and he has been important for Senegal.

“He’s obviously a big miss for them, but hopefully we can benefit from that a little.”

It’s a bitter blow for Mane, who had featured in each of Bayern’s 23 games before his injury, in a story that is becoming all too familiar as injuries mount up throughout World Cup squads.

France’s Karim Benzema is the latest to drop out with a thigh injury, meaning the winner of the Ballon d’Or will not feature in a World Cup for the first time since 1978.

Van Dijk, though, will be in action on Monday in the Netherlands’ opener against Senegal at 4pm (UK).