Sadio Mane scored a hat-trick as Senegal overcame Benin 3-1 on Saturday in the first match of their Africa Cup of Nations title defence, and hinted that he will not be at Liverpool next season.
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Speaking to the media before the Group L clash, Mane said: “I will do what they (the Senegalese people) want.
“Like everyone else, I am on social media and see the comments. Is it not between 60 and 70 percent of Senegalese want me to leave Liverpool?”
Mane, who forms a deadly strike partnership with two-time African Footballer of the Year Mohamed Salah from Egypt, has been linked to German giants Bayern Munich.
He had said he would reveal his future plans after Liverpool lost to Real Madrid in the Champions League final last weekend, but did not do so.
“We will see soon,” he told the media conference in Senegal. “Do not be in hurry because we will see this together.”
The 30-year-old reigning African Footballer of the Year converted a 12th-minute penalty at the national stadium in Diamniadio near Dakar.
Mane struck again on 23 minutes, bursting into the box and scoring at the second attempt after goalkeeper Saturnin Allagbe blocked his initial shot.
Benin had Sessi D’Almeida sent off early in the second half of the 2023 qualifier and Mane completed his hat-trick on the hour from another penalty before Junior Olaitan reduced arrears.
Next up for Senegal is a trip to Rwanda on Tuesday, and it is hard to imagine any result other than another victory for the Teranga Lions.
Rwanda drew 1-1 away to Mozambique and they share second place behind Senegal and ahead of Benin, who were guided by caretaker Moussa Latoundji after the departure of French coach Michel Dussuyer.
– Dream debut –
Eric Chelle, whose coaching experience has been limited to French lower-league clubs, made a dream debut as boss of Mali, who hammered Congo Brazzaville 4-0 in Bamako.
Mohamed Camara put the Malians ahead with just one minute on the clock and they were four goals ahead by half-time as El Bilal Toure netted twice and Kalifa Coulibaly once.
Mali top Group G on goal difference from the Gambia, who edged South Sudan 1-0 through a goal from Ablie Jallow at the end of the opening half.
Gambia debuted in the Cup of Nations this year and beat higher ranked sides Tunisia and Guinea and held Mali before bowing to hosts Cameroon in the quarter-finals.
Algeria coach Djamel Belmadi made sweeping squad changes after the then defending champions made a stunning first-round Cup of Nations exit, then lost a 2022 World Cup play-off against Cameroon.
Among those axed was West Ham United forward Said Benrahma, while Manchester City winger Riyad Mahrez, the Desert Foxes’ captain, missed out due to an undisclosed injury.
Despite the introduction of young blood it was an old hand — centre-back Aissa Mandi — who set up a 2-0 Group F victory over Uganda in Algiers.
Islam Slimani nodded a free-kick against the crossbar and the rebound struck the Villarreal defender on the shoulder and fell into the net after 28 minutes.
The boost of a first-minute headed goal by George Mwaigomole was not enough to produce a win for Tanzania in the same group with Niger levelling through Daniel Sosah to force a 1-1 draw.
In other matches, Mauritania hammered Sudan 3-0, Namibia and Burundi drew 1-1 and the match between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Gabon started four hours late.
A jet carrying the Gabonese delegation from Paris to Kinshasa developed problems and had to make an emergency landing in Barcelona.
On Sunday, Salah-inspired Egypt host Guinea while Qatar World Cup qualifiers Ghana and Tunisia are away to the Central African Republic and Botswana respectively.