Red Bull Salzburg could be forgiven for giving Sadio Mane a slightly frosty reception as they host Liverpool in a crunch game in the final round of Champions League group fixtures. The Austrian club provided a launchpad for Mane’s career yet the way the Senegalese star left the club left a sour taste in the mouth.
Having scored 31 goals in two years at the club, it was clear Mane was keen to move into one of the big leagues and truly challenge himself. However, the way he did so and the consequences of his actions still rubs some Salzburg fans up the wrong way.
In early August of 2014, RB Salzburg beat Malmo in the first leg of a Champions League play-off, with a second leg to come. Mane was subbed off with ten minutes to go but still contributed to his sides 2-1 win, as you would expect from the star man.
However, for the return leg a week later, he was a no-show. He failed to turn up to training the day before or any of his scheduled appointments, missing the scheduled flight to Malmo for the second leg. He was attempting to force a move away from the club and got his way a few weeks later after reiterating his insistence to leave the club.
For Salzburg, the damage had already been done. Without their star man they lost the second leg 3-0 and therefore were eliminated from the Champions League before the group stages got underway, something that damaged the club financially.
However, Mane got his move to the Premier League, albeit a move that was not his first choice at the time. In fact, he could have had an early reunion with his current boss.
“That transfer (from Salzburg to Southampton) was tough and complicated. I’ll tell you the truth. Southampton is a very good club, but I didn’t want to go there," the forward said.
“My aim was to sign at Dortmund because Jürgen Klopp wanted me. Except Salzburg was already in agreement with Spartak Moscow. They wanted to sell me in Russia to get the most money. Dortmund were ready to pay €12m. I said no to Russia. My dream was to play in the best leagues."
Meanwhile, Klopp will be hoping his main man turns up tonight, it what is a vital game in Liverpool’s season. He reflected upon the potential Mane transfer:
“I thought at that time that it was a lot of pressure on Dortmund and this transfer it had to be right. It is not the only wrong decision I have made, this one I could correct some years later.”
As Mane returns to his former club, Liverpool must avoid defeat in Austria to book their place in the last 16 of the Champions League. Kick-off is at 17:55 GMT.