Premier League • England

Fabinho reveals he tried to prevent Mane exit but makes Nunez prediction; tips Salah to become best ever

Sadio Mane consoling Fabinho after Liverpool loss

Fabinho has revealed he tried to convince Sadio Mane to stay at Liverpool, but believes the signing of Darwin Nunez and contract renewal of Mohamed Salah can help them move on.

Mane left Liverpool earlier this summer after six successful seasons with the club. As he entered the final year of his contract, he opted for a new challenge in the Bundesliga with Bayern Munich.

He will leave a void in the Liverpool attack, although they already prepared for his exit by signing Luis Diaz in January. Furthermore, Nunez joined in the summer and Salah agreed to a contract extension.

It means midfielder Fabinho will still have a strong attack ahead of him at Anfield. But he has now revealed how he attempted to talk Mane into staying – before ultimately having to accept his decision.

Fabinho told The Athletic: “At the end of the season, I spoke a lot with Sadio. He told me about the situation that he could leave.

“I was always saying to him, ‘Come on Sadio, stay here. You can win the Premier League and the Champions League right here, don’t leave’. But I think he had already made his mind up. We had to respect that.

“Sadio had a really good story in a Liverpool shirt. He played for six years here and during that time he won everything you can win and he decided that he wanted a new challenge. That’s OK.

“After the parade in Liverpool, everyone said goodbye to him. We knew there was a good chance he would be leaving. I always kept some hope that he would still stay but then it was all confirmed.

“Losing Sadio is a big loss. He was one of our best players but it’s something that we can’t change. We have to deal with it. Now other players have to step up and take on greater responsibility.”

Mane had been playing in a centre-forward role after Diaz started playing on the left wing. Hence, it will be up to Nunez to replace what the former Southampton striker was most recently contributing.

Fabinho, who cited his own struggles to adapt initially elsewhere in the interview, admitted Nunez’s transition to the Premier League may take time. But he has complete faith that the ex-Benfica star will have what it takes to succeed.

He explained: “Darwin may need a bit of time to adapt, let’s see, but a player like him can really change a team.

“He’s a proper number nine. He’s a goal-scorer. He scored in both games against us in the Champions League. We know how good he is.

“Even though we lost Sadio, I still believe that we can fight for everything. The team is still really strong.

“For a long time it was always Sadio on the left side. But we have Luis on the left side and we saw how well he played in the second half of last season. Luis will become increasingly important.”

Fabinho explains importance of Salah staying

On the opposite flank, Liverpool will continue to enjoy the services of Salah, who has already scored more than 150 goals for the club.

He recently signed a contract extension until 2025, becoming Liverpool’s highest paid player. Their hope will be that he continues to deliver with the consistency and quality he has since 2017.

For Fabinho, it was essential that Salah stayed – and the Brazilian thinks his teammate can become the club’s best ever player with a bit of help.

He said: “That was really important, especially after losing Sadio. We knew Mo had to stay in the team and keep playing with us.

“I am really happy for him that the contract got sorted. I think he’s happier than before. In the last five years, he’s been maybe the best player in this team and has shown how important he is for the club.

“He’s already a legend of Liverpool. With this new deal, he can go on to become the best player in the history of the club. I’ll really try to help him achieve this.”

Salah is already ninth on Liverpool’s list of all-time leading scorers.

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