Champions League Stage Set For Liverpool’s Global Stars Mohamed Salah And Sadio Mane
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As two of the best soccer players in the world, the Liverpool forwards Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah command our attention whenever they take the field.

Once again all eyes will be trained on them when they lead Liverpool against Real Madrid on Saturday in the UEFA Champions League final—the most high profile game outside the World Cup.

Their importance to Liverpool is rivaled only by their influence in their home countries of Egypt (Salah) and Senegal (Mane), where they’ve established their names among soccer’s greats. In England, they are global ambassadors on a multinational team representing one of the country’s most international cities.

Liverpool FC and its owner, Fenway Sports Group, have assembled a team and revived a world-class club by hiring its latest legendary manager, installing a team of expert staff throughout, redeveloping the stadium, upgrading the Kirkby academy to become a new training complex, and returning the club to the top of the game as demonstrated by its presence in finals such as this.

FSG have also become known for getting value in the transfer market. They have links to the concept of Moneyball thanks to their baseball background with the Boston Red Sox.

As a result of such progress, Liverpool is now the fourth most valuable team in the world, as revealed by Forbes on Thursday.

This is the club’s third Champions League final in five seasons, and Salah and Mane have been integral in all of them.

The first of these ended in defeat against this year’s final opponents, Real Madrid, and holds tough memories for Salah, who went off with a shoulder injury following an unpunished foul on him by Sergio Ramos which could best be described as some kind of wrestling move.

“I remember when I went out after 30 minutes or something, it was the worst moment in my career,” he said this week.

“I was really, really down at that time. I had a good season and just playing a Champions League final, coming off after 30 minutes, is the worst thing to happen to any football player.”

Mane scored Liverpool’s goal in a 3-1 defeat in that 2018 final, with Salah scoring in the next year’s final—a 2-0 win against Tottenham to lift the club’s sixth European Cup, but the real opportunity for revenge comes this year. Salah has not hidden his desire to face the side from the Spanish capital once again.

“I’m very motivated, motivated through the roof,” he added. “I think after what happened with Madrid last time, and also what happened on Sunday [missing out on the Premier League to Manchester City], everybody is motivated to win the Champions League, because this is an unbelievable trophy for us.

“I think every season since I came here we have fought for it and everybody is excited for it.”

Though Salah and Mane play for the same club, fight for the same trophies and shared goals with Liverpool, they regularly find themselves up against each other, and it’s been a big year for both for their respective national teams.

Their names have led the narrative in African football this year, from the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon), which was finally played in January and February after being postponed due to Covid, to important World Cup qualifiers in March.

Both of these significant events in the international football calendar pitted Salah and Mane against each other in the Afcon final and in a World Cup playoff, with Mane’s Senegal coming out on top against Salah’s Egypt on both occasions.

Salah was already considered in the running for the 2022 Ballon d’Or but Mane’s Afcon success and World Cup qualification, plus his subsequent form with Liverpool, often in a new role through the middle, has seen him emerge as a surprise contender for the award.

“For an African player not to have won the Ballon d’Or since George Weah it is sad for sure,” Mane said when asked about the award this week.

If Liverpool wins the Champions League final, Mane might get his award and Salah will certainly get his revenge.

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