Jurgen Klopp has hailed Sadio Mane as one of Liverpool’s greatest ever players following confirmation of his exit to join Bayern Munich.
The Senegal international hinted at his desire to leave Liverpool following the club’s Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid and his €41million (£35.2m) move to the Bundesliga champions was confirmed on Wednesday.
Liverpool have already made moves in the transfer market to prepare for Mane’s exit, landing Darwin Nunez from Benfica, but Klopp admitted it was a significant moment for the club in a passionate tribute to the 30-year-old.
“It’s a big moment. There is no point in anyone trying to pretend otherwise,” he told the club’s website. “One of Liverpool’s greatest ever players is leaving and we must acknowledge how significant this is.
“He leaves with our gratitude and our love. He leaves with his status among the greats guaranteed. And, yes, he leaves in a moment where he is one of the best players in world football.
“But we must not dwell on what we now lose, instead celebrate what we were privileged to have.
“The goals he scored, the trophies he won; a legend, for sure, but also a modern-day Liverpool icon.”
Mane won everything he could during his six years on Merseyside, including the Champions League in 2018-19 and the Premier League in 2019-20, forming a formidable attacking trio alongside Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah.
While the entire squad was pivotal for those triumphs, Klopp hailed Mane for helping to make it all happen after quickly settling into life at Anfield following his arrival from Southampton.
The Liverpool manager said of Mane: “Since he first stepped through the door, he made us better.
“If someone had told us in that moment what he would go on to contribute and achieve for this club, I’m not sure it would have been possible to comprehend in that moment. Not the scale of it at least. Sadio made it all possible.
“To be that good for such a sustained period and continuously improve season on season – no matter how high he set his own bar in the previous one – is an example to any player anywhere on the planet that professionalism and dedication leads to reward.”
The German coach also made it clear there was no hard feelings towards Mane for his decision to leave and tipped him to continue to grow as a footballer.
Klopp added: “I respect completely his decision and I’m sure our supporters do also. If you love LFC, you have to love Sadio – non-negotiable. It is possible to do this while accepting our loss is Bayern’s gain.
“We wish him nothing but success in every match he plays in, unless, of course, it’s against us. His star will continue to rise, I have no doubts.”