'I saw in Sadio's eyes that if he could turn the clock back he would do it' - Mane back to best after derby gaffe
Sadio Mane's first year at Liverpool was ended by a knee injury in the Merseyside derby; this season he has just recovered from the mental wound he suffered in the same fixture.
Manager Jurgen Klopp has revealed how Mane was badly affected by an error in the 1-1 draw with Everton in December.
With Liverpool one up before half-time, Mane elected to shoot when team-mates waited for a tap-in.
That, Klopp believes, led to a dip in form. A managerial pep talk was needed to restore the African's confidence.
"After the Everton game when he didn't pass the ball, everybody made a big criticism of him," said Klopp.
"I didn't mention it to be honest. I didn't mention it at half-time, I didn't mention it after the game, it was not mentioned in any meeting because I saw in Sadio's eyes that if he could turn the clock backwards he would do it.
"At that moment, he was convinced he would score. He was a striker and a striker has to make a decision.
"I want him to make these decisions, but sometimes you have to accept that these decisions are wrong.
"I accept it, you have to accept it. As long as you don't do the same in the next 20 similar situations so people start thinking, 'what's that about?' That is no problem."
Klopp will be hoping Mane's struggles are over and his display against Manchester City eight days ago was his best for months.
"Of course, we had talks," Klopp revealed.
"I like to be honest and I don't want to say Sadio was brilliant when he wasn't. Everyone could see that he struggled a bit.
"How can I say to you what I told the player in a one-to-one meeting? It is not possible, but it was about what he did so far.
"Good, good, good, good, good; one or two things not that good, but the rest good. So let's build on that and ignore the rest.
"At Burnley he scored a fantastic goal, but it was not a world-class game of Sadio. Since then, he is now really back, and he is a world-class player.
"The two goals he scored (against Burnley and Manchester City), I don't know a lot of players who could have scored these."
With Philippe Coutinho gone, it is a timely return to form.
"It had nothing to do with Phil, but Sadio is one of the players who, for sure, can fill this gap if you want," said Klopp.
Liverpool travelled to Swansea yesterday ahead of tonight's fixture, but, despite his return to training, Daniel Sturridge was not part of the squad.
Sturridge's Anfield career is drawing to an end. Inter Milan and Sevilla are trying to secure a loan agreement - the Italians have been in the more advanced discussions with the Liverpool hierarchy, but Sturridge has expressed a preference to move to La Liga.
Liverpool will not let the striker leave unless the financial package is favourable - they will not subsidise Sturridge's wages while he is loan.
They would also prefer an agreement that leads to a permanent transfer.
Klopp, meanwhile, continues to take a pragmatic view on the future of Emre Can, who remains a focal point of his line-up despite his refusal to pledge his long-term future to the club.
Klopp hopes such situations do not become frequent, but says it is difficult to prevent.
"Emre is here in the moment and that is the most important thing," he said.
"We have to create a situation where players want to stay. That's all we can do as a club, as a team and me as a manager and we try to do that with the players we want to keep.
"It is not fair to say there are some players we will sell in the summer or whatever. It is part of business. For me, there is no problem.
"We will see what happens. He didn't sign a new contract for us yet otherwise we would have informed you."
Klopp has repeatedly spoken about how the club's best hopes of keeping top players lie in success on the pitch, but the club's upward trajectory is yet to convince Can to commit.
When asked whether he believed Can would be making a big decision if he chose to walk away on a free transfer, Klopp conceded that if a player truly wants to leave, little can be done to stop them. (© Daily Telegraph, London)
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