Just a few days after scoring twice in Liverpool's first game of the 18/19 season Sadio Mané arrives at Liverpool's Kirkby Academy with a beaming smile on his face. He's here to launch the latest New Balance football boots and to talk to SoccerBible about his World Cup experience, Champions League heroics and his relationship with the Liverpool fans going into the new campaign.

Now, these media days can often be a visible chore for some footballers but Mané is clearly enjoying his new found purpose as a New Balance leading man. Staying on the pitch for the whole afternoon to coach a hapless SoccerBible writer, who's a full back at absolute best, to shoot with no regard for rapidly disappearing New Balance footballs. With all the balls safely dispatched onto the U16s pitch over the (decent sized) fence we sat down with Mané for a catch up...

Sadio, you’ve had a busy summer. How was your first experience of the World Cup?

It was great. It was the first time I’ve had the opportunity to represent my country at a World Cup, and it was honestly a dream come true for me. Even though we didn’t progress from the group stage it was still an incredible experience. We gave everything we had and I personally learned a lot from it. We would have loved to stay to the end, and I think we had the quality in our team to go far, but sadly it didn't happen that way.

What was it like watching the World Cup when you growing up in Senegal?

The first time I watched a World Cup game was in 2002. That was the first time Senegal had ever qualified for the World Cup and it was great moment that I will never forget in my life. I was ten years old at the time, and that experience of watching my country in a World Cup is what inspired me to become a footballer.

At that point in my life I’d only ever watch the national team and that was the best moment to be a fan. Senegal reached the final of the Africa Cup of Nations and the Quarter Final of the World Cup and it was amazing to see how proud the whole of the country was of these players. Every time I play for Senegal now I always think of how happy our performances can make the whole country.


Have you spoken to anybody from your hometown about how they watched the 2018 World Cup?

It was only the second time that we’d qualified for the World Cup so there was so much excitement in Senegal. The last time was 16 years ago so a lot of younger people were experiencing it for the first time. Everybody decorates their houses in the colours of the Senegal flag and I can honestly say that every single person watches the games.

My friends and family have told me how proud they all were of us in Russia. They said how crazy it was when we scored and how much everybody was celebrating. Unfortunately we were unable to go as far as we wanted to in the competition but that’s part of football, we have to move on and focus on the next challenge.

What did you get up to after the World Cup? Before you joined up with the Liverpool squad…

Unfortunately I didn't have time to go back to Senegal after the World Cup because I only had four or five days holiday. I preferred to stay here in Liverpool and rest before meeting back up with my teammates. It was a long season having reached the Champions League Final and then going straight to the World Cup so I was happy to chill out for a few days.

Did you keep any souvenirs from the World Cup?

Yeah of course. I’ve kept all of my shirts that wore in the World Cup games and I’ll be giving them to my family to keep.


Looking ahead to the new season with Liverpool. The club have been busy in the transfer market, how would you describe Liverpool FC to a new player?

Honestly, this is such a great club. Everything about Liverpool FC is special, and these new signings have so much quality to help take the club to the next level. I wouldn’t need to say anything to the new players because everybody has seen how amazing this club is. You only have to look at last season, to see the atmosphere before and during the Champions League games to realise that this club is so different to others.

The streets were crazy when we were arriving at the stadium. That’s not normal is it?! The fans here are incredible, you can see how much it means to them and that gives us even more belief. They might not even know how much influence they can have on us as a team. They’re the best fans in the world.

So many ex-players still work around the club and when you speak to them about Liverpool they are still as passionate as when they were players. It feels like a family and it’s hard not to have strong feelings for the club.

You’ve taken the number 10 shirt this season. Can you tell us about that…

Ever since I started playing football I’ve always taken the number 10 shirt. It’s always been my favourite number so when I saw it was free this season, after Philippe [Coutinho] left, I asked if I could have it.

So many incredible players have worn the number 10 shirt. Do you have any favourites?

Yeah, yeah, of course! My first hero to wear the number 10 shirt was Ronaldinho. I think you’ll probably know more about him than me but every time I saw him play he was just amazing. So much skill, so many goals and he was always so happy on the pitch. He was having fun and winning trophies at the same time, I always loved that about him. He’s a legend.


How would you describe the atmosphere in the Liverpool squad right now?

Honestly, the atmosphere is unbelievable. Everybody is really focused and full of confidence. Every player in training, even through to the U23s is so motivated and it’s a great environment to be in right now. Everyone can sense how much potential is in this group and it’s exciting to see what we can achieve together this season.

Have the achievements of last season given you extra motivation going into the new campaign?

Yeah, definitely. It would be wrong to say that last season was a bad season, because we did so well to reach the Champions League Final, but we feel we should be closer to the top of the Premier League. The Champions League Final hurt us. It’s true that we lost to one of the best teams in the world, but it has made us a stronger and will benefit us in the future. We’re so hungry to win something for the club this season.

The 2018/19 campaign will be your first full season as a New Balance player. How did you come to sign for the brand?

New Balance contacted me and I was immediately interested, as I hadn’t worn their boots before. The brand work with the club (LFC) so I knew a lot about them already, but when I tried the boots in training I knew straight away that I was happy to be part of New Balance. The Furon boot is built for speed which suits me perfectly. I wore them for the first time in the Champions League Final and I scored so I hope to have many more big moments with New Balance.


Sadio Mane was speaking to us at New Balance Football’s launch of the Furon 4.0 and Tekela 1.0 boots at Liverpool FC’s Academy. Shop the full New Balance boot collection at prodirectsoccer.com