Jurgen Klopp says he was not impressed when he first met Sadio Mane because the Liverpool star “looked like a rapper”.
Mane arrived at Liverpool just a year into Klopp’s tenure and has become a pivotal player for the Champions League winners, scoring 77 times in 161 appearances in all competitions to help them to Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup titles.
But the Senegal star had been on Klopp’s radar long before the 2016 move to Anfield, as the German coach considered bringing him to Borussia Dortmund from Red Bull Salzburg, where he won the league and cup double.
Klopp, however, decided against signing him because of his appearance, allowing Southampton to snap him up from the Austrian giants.
“I remember my first encounter with Sadio. It was in Dortmund. There was a really young guy sitting there. His baseball cap was askew, the blond streak he still has today,” Klopp said in a new documentary about the 27-year-old.
“He looked like a rapper just starting out. I thought: ‘I don’t have time for this’. Our team back then really wasn’t bad. I needed someone who could handle not being a starter at the very beginning, someone I could develop.
“I’d say I have a pretty good feeling for people, but was I wrong! I further followed his career and continued success at Salzburg. In Southampton he just dominated.”
Mane spent two seasons at St Mary’s before the Reds finally lured him away. By then, Klopp was already convinced he would shine with the Anfield outfit.
“It was great,” he added. “Sadio wanted to work with me as much as I did with him so it was a win-win situation.”
And Mane revealed that it was a stunning performance against Liverpool that convinced them to swoop in for him.
“I was at Southampton and we played against Liverpool. I was on the bench. We were 2-0 down at half-time. Coach Ronald Koeman sent me on to the field,” Mane said.
“We turned the game around and I scored twice. I was this insignificant player who had just given a huge performance.
“Liverpool was a club that notices players who tire them out, so they couldn’t say no and Klopp called my agent.”