Salah and Mane renew rivalry in hunt for World Cup 2022 qualification


In all, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane have shared a pitch, as teammates, for 16,143 minutes of their lives. That’s the equivalent of well over a week and a half, day and night, always striving, synchronising their movements, anticipating each other’s thoughts.

And scoring. Especially scoring. This pair have netted 228 goals between them for Liverpool in the time they have been on the field together.

Salah and Mane have spent quite a few hours together dressed up smartly in the waiting rooms and auditoriums of awards ceremonies, too. Sometimes the Senegalese ends up congratulating the Egyptian when an MC announces the prize-winner at these galas, as Mane did when Salah was named African Footballer of the Year in 2017 and 2018. Sometimes it is the other way round. Salah finished second to Mane for the award in 2019.

It is a relationship of friends as well as close colleagues – but on the terms you would expect of two fiercely competitive individuals. In those 16,143 shared minutes there have been a few where either Salah or Mane could be glimpsed frowning at the other one because of a misplaced pass, or when a shot was attempted when a pass would have been preferable.

But they have been terrifically good for each other, twin spearheads for Liverpool’s first English league title for 30 years, an achievement thoroughly stamped with the uplift Mane and Salah gave to the club once they were united by manager Jurgen Klopp in a dynamic forward line with Salah’s joining from Roma in 2017.

They shared a Champions League triumph, after a European Cup final swung Liverpool’s way when Mane won a penalty and Salah converted it very early on against Tottenham Hotspur in Madrid.

They have been Club World Cup winners together, and last month won their first English knockout trophy, the League Cup, as a pair. Salah converted one of the penalties in Liverpool’s impeccable, marathon shoot-out at Wembley against Chelsea.

Two weeks earlier, he had been in tears after a shoot-out that went wrong for Egypt, in Yaounde, Cameroon. Among those consoling him was Mane. They had just completed their

fifth career hour on a competitive field together as opponents.

This, the third time they had met as figureheads for Egypt’s Pharaohs and Senegal’s Lions, was, of all their three meetings as rivals, the one with the highest stakes and the narrowest margin.