Roberto Firmino has revealed that Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane were “never best friends” during their time as Liverpool teammates but would always put professionalism ahead of any personal beef.
Firmino has discussed the Salah and Mane, between whom there was always seemingly some underlying friction, in his new book, Si Senor: My Liverpool Years.
The Brazilian often found himself in the middle, the glue that held the famous Liverpool trio together, even acquiring meme status for a cheeky look he shot towards the camera when heading back to the dressing, literally between them, after the lid had threatened to come off on the pitch.
That day in 2019, a win over Burnley, Mane had reacted angrily when substituted in the final minutes. He was frustrated by being withdrawn before the end, but also by Salah after his teammate had moments earlier opted to shoot himself rather than pass to Mane in a better position.
In an extract from his book published in The Guardian, Firmino admitted he knew tension had been brewing since the previous season: “My instinct and my duty was to defuse the situation between them. Tense moments usually passed quickly. In the next game, one would be passing the ball to the other – or passing it to me, who would then pass it to the other – and we’d be celebrating another goal for our team. Together. Salah and Mane had had their little problems before, but that time [against Burnley] everything happened on the field, there for the world to see.”
Firmino explained that by pulling a face in the tunnel afterwards, he was trying to convey to Liverpool fans that it “wouldn’t lead to anything serious”.
He added: “I don’t know if he was aware of it or not, but Salah used to frustrate everyone when he didn’t pass the ball. I knew how to handle that situation better than most. Klopp addressed this issue in front of all of us: when a teammate was in a better position, the ball had to be passed. It was a clear hint aimed at Salah. Over the years, I must say, this aspect of his game improved significantly. He gradually learned to be less selfish and more cooperative.”
Firmino also explained that Mane was “more intense in both good and bad moments”, more volatile and explosive than the other two. The Brazilian would sacrifice himself, knowing that it would cause less tension within the group if Jurgen Klopp substituted him rather than either of the others.
“They were never best friends; each kept himself to himself,” Firmino said.
“It was rare to see the two of them talking and I’m not sure if that had to do with the Egypt–Senegal rivalry in African competitions. I truly don’t know. But they also never stopped talking, never severed ties. They always acted with the utmost professionalism.”
What we know
- Mohamed Salah & Sadio Mane didn’t always get on at Liverpool
- Tensions threatened to boil over during 2019 win over Burnley
- Roberto Firmino found himself at the centre of the rivalry.