Roberto Firmino has revealed the tension between Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah during the trio at Liverpool.
Firmino, who left Liverpool last summer after a trophy-laden eight-year spell at Anfield, said he had played the role of “firefighter” between the pair as they formed one of Europe’s most devastating attacking partnerships — most publicly seen when Mane ran amok. Salah on the bench against Burnley in 2019 immediately after failing to pass the ball to him for an easy tap-in.
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“I knew those guys very well, maybe better than anyone,” Firmino wrote in his book, “Sí Señor: My Liverpool Years.” “It was me off the field, right in the middle of them. I saw first-hand the looks, the facial expressions, the body language, the frustration when someone was mad at someone. I could feel it. I was the connection between them in our offensive game and the firefighter in that moment.
“For many, this is discordant [against Burnley in August 2019] The first was between Sadio and Mo; For some, first and last. But I knew it was in the making since the previous season, 2018-19. My instinct and my duty was to preserve the situation between them. Pour water on the fire – never petrol.”
Mane left Liverpool to join Bayern Munich in 2022 but left to join Cristiano Ronaldo at Saudi Pro League side Al Nasr a year later. Firmino also moved to Saudi Arabia, joining Al Ahly as a free agent.
Salah has remained at Liverpool, scoring 10 goals in 15 games this season, despite Liverpool rejecting a £150 ($190m) bid from Al Ittihad last summer.
Firmino continued: “They were never the best of friends; everyone kept to themselves. It was rare for the two of them to speak and I’m not sure if that had anything to do with the Egypt-Senegal rivalry in the African competition. I don’t really know. But they also Never stopped talking, never broke the bond. They always acted with utmost professionalism.
“I never took sides. This is why they love me: I always pass the ball to both; my preference was for the team to win. Many people focus on what the attacking trio brought tactically, but perhaps the humanity was just as important. Content: My role as the peacemaker, the unifier. If I don’t do that, there will be nothing but a storm between the two of them on the field.
“Maybe that’s why I was the one most often substituted by Klopp. The three of us had very different personalities and the boss knew I wouldn’t throw a bottle on the ground or anything like that. If I was upset, I’d speak up. Later to him personally. When a replacement was needed. Either way, then it was easier to take out Bobby than bother either of the other two.
“Everyone, including the other players, knew how it worked. It was Liverpool’s worst-kept secret – naturally, no one ever asked what I thought or how I felt. It’s just my nature; the team comes first. The boss knew.”