Sadio Mane has hit back at Pep Guardiola’s “diving” accusations and insists he will not change his game because of the Manchester City manager’s comments.
Guardiola caused something of a stir last weekend when unprompted, he referenced Mane’s “special talent” in an interview following his side’s victory over Southampton.
“Sometimes he is diving, sometimes he has this talent to score incredible goals in the last minute,” said the City boss to BBC Sport.
Guardiola’s comments were met with bemusement at Anfield, with many believing them to be a deliberate ploy to influence referee Michael Oliver ahead of Sunday’s top-of-the-table clash.
Mane has won match-winning penalties twice in recent weeks but was booked in the Reds’ last league game at Aston Villa after going to ground in the area under a challenge from Bjorn Engels.
Jurgen Klopp dismissed Guardiola’s claims ahead of Liverpool’s Champions League win over Genk, while the Catalan chose to downplay his original words before City’s game with Atalanta in Milan.
“Jurgen said he knows Sadio better than me,” said Guardiola. “And I have incredible respect and the message in football is always try to be like this, always positive and attractive. Hopefully, I can clarify everything for Jurgen.”
Mane himself was asked about the storm following the Genk game and responded in typical style – with a smile.
Laughing, he told reporters: “I think it’s a bit clever from him to get the attention of the referee but I will just play my football like I’m always doing. I don’t pay attention to what he’s saying because it’s part of football.
“It doesn’t make anything for me. Even though I saw him commenting about it, what he said, for me, I think it’s positive!”
Asked whether the fact Guardiola chose to speak out publicly, more than a week ahead of such an important fixture, showed the City boss was worried, Mane smiled once more.
“Maybe. I don’t know,” the Senegal star said. “You guys know more than me. “The only thing I can say for sure is I will be ready for the team, to give everything possible, and to help my team.
“If it could be a penalty for sure I will ‘dive’ again. If the dive will give me a penalty then I will do it to get it back! Why not? But what Jurgen said is correct. I do not dive.”
Mane’s words, it should be noted, were delivered with a degree of sarcasm. Clearly, like his manager, he believes his reputation as someone who dives is an unfair one.
Addressing the yellow card for simulation at Villa, he continued: “There was contact for sure. Maybe it was not a penalty and he didn’t give it, and he gave me a yellow card. To be honest I don’t have any problem about it.
“For sure it can happen in football and we have seen many people, some diving and get penalties, some got a penalty and the referee didn’t give it. That’s football. You have to deal with it.
“[I will play] like I’m always doing. It’s what I want to keep doing. If I get a penalty, yeah it’s a penalty. If no penalty, no penalty, but [it will] never be anything wrong or change the way I’m playing or the way I’m doing my things.”
Of course, the stakes could hardly be higher this Sunday. Victory for Liverpool would take them nine points clear at the top of the table, while a win for City would fire Guardiola’s team right back into the title race.
“It’s a big game,” grinned Mane. “Everybody knows and everybody’s excited. I think this is the kind of game which is always exciting and we’re looking forward to it.
“It will be really, really important for us to get a positive result and we will be ready, spot-on from the first second until the last. We will give everything possible to win.
“I think I can say we play every kind of game this last two years so I don’t think the game will make us nervous. But for sure it’s an extra motivation for us to play against them, especially at home, and to do everything possible to win the game.”