Sadio Mane has insisted that Liverpool won’t feel his absence when he leaves the club to represent Senegal in the African Cup of Nations in January.

Sadio Mane is the toast of Liverpool Football Club right now after joining from Southampton this past summer. Liverpool paid £34 million for the player and there was a lot of skepticism around his acquisition initially. However, the Senegalese has put all those concerns to bed in the four months that have followed, scoring eight goals to become Liverpool’s top scorer for the season.

His latest exploits saw him become the hero for the Reds as he scored an injury time winner in the Merseyside Derby to not only get one over their fierce city rivals Everton, but also keep up with Premier League leaders Chelsea. As he prepares to temporarily leave the club in January, the concern among the Liverpool faithful is about how Jurgen Klopp’s team will cope in his absence.

However, Mane is confident that his absence won’t hurt Liverpool’s bid to challenge for the Premier League title, insisting that they will even improve as the team prepares to welcome Philippe Coutinho and Joel Matip back from injury.

“It will not be easy for me to go with Senegal next month,” Mane said, according to the Daily Mail.

“I would love to carry on playing with my team-mates and help my team but I think they will understand because it is my country and it is my dream. I will be wishing them good luck but without me the team will be the same.

“Even better I think. They will cope. Coutinho will come back. Matip will come back and [Daniel] Sturridge is back now. That is why the team will be strong [while I am away].”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 19: Sadio Mane of Liverpool (R) celebrates as he scores their first goal during the Premier League match between Everton and Liverpool at Goodison Park on December 19, 2016 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Mane will play Stoke City, Manchester City and Sunderland before he joins up with his national team in Gabon. He is set to be absent from the Liverpool team until at least January 23, when Senegal’s last group game is played. The absence is likely to be longer though as Senegal enter the African Cup of Nations as one of the favourites, after qualifying with a 100% record.

This would mean that, should his country reach the finals of the tournament, Mane could miss up to eight games, including Liverpool’s FA Cup third round match against Plymouth Argyle or Newport County, both the legs of the EFL Cup semi-final against Southampton and crucial Premier League encounters against Manchester United and Chelsea.

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