CAIRO (Reuters) – Sadio Mane would be prepared to swap his Champions League success with Liverpool for an Africa Cup of Nations medal with Senegal, he said as he readied for his first game at the tournament in Egypt.
“To win for my country, which has never won a Cup of Nations, would be magnificent. I am even ready to trade in my Champions League success to win the Africa Cup of Nations,” Mane told France Football in an interview published on Tuesday.
“The return to Dakar (with the trophy) would be extraordinary. That is my craziest dream,” he said.
Mane, who helped Liverpool beat Tottenham Hotspur on June 1 in the Champions League final in Madrid, missed Senegal’s opening game at this year’s Cup of Nations as he was suspended because of an accumulation of cautions in the qualifiers.
Senegal beat Tanzania 2-0 in Cairo on Sunday to make a winning start to their Group C campaign. They next take on Algeria on Thursday, when Mane is expected to return to the team.
He is competing in his third finals, having seen Senegal eliminated in the first round in 2015 and then having to be dragged off the field two years ago when he collapsed in a heap after his penalty in a quarter-final shootout against Cameroon was saved.
“It’s up to us to achieve something grand,” said Mane of their latest quest.
“Of course we are among the favourites, we cannot hide from that. But this status is not enough to ensure that we go through to the end.”
Senegal’s best Nations Cup performance was in 2002 when the team reached the final in Mali but lost to Cameroon on penalties after a goalless draw.
(Reporting by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Hugh Lawson)