RB Leipzig midfielder Naby Keita has revealed future Liverpool team-mate Sadio Mane has played a “big brother” role for him throughout his career.
Liverpool confirmed in August that they had signed an agreement to bring Keita to Anfield for a club-record fee of £48m in July 2018. The German club have since announced the 22-year-old will not be allowed to leave early amid suggestions of Liverpool wanting the player in January.
Keita played briefly with Mane at Austrian side Red Bull Salzburg following his arrival from France in 2014 and despite the winger departing for Southampton that summer, he played a key role in helping Keita adapt to his new environment.
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“At first, I wasn’t starting and it was very frustrating,” Keita told Goal. “I didn’t like it and it made the settling-in period harder. But Sadio said: ‘My little brother, stay calm. Your chance will come and when it does, you will make the most of it’.
“He helped me with everything – the language, making friends, understanding the club and the city. And, of course, he was right. Once I was put into the team, I showed my qualities and everything went much smoother.
“Salzburg improved me as a player and I learnt so much there, I got a really tactical education. Sadio was important for me, he still is! To me, he’s my big brother. He really likes to learn new things, to improve and to push himself and we are the same in this way. He’s a good example for me.”
Mane, who returned to action at West Ham on November 4 following almost a month out with a hamstring injury suffered while playing for Senegal, is looking forward to linking up with his former team-mate next season.
“He is a really special player and is like family to me,” said Mane. “We were close at Salzburg and still keep in touch. I enjoy watching him and look forward to helping him again when he comes next year.
“He asked me about Liverpool and I told him this is an amazing club with talented players, a great manager and lots of ambition. The city and the people are really nice and he will feel at home here.”