Sadio Mane insists he is happy at Anfield, amid links with Real Madrid
Liverpool star hopes to make up for last year's Champions League final defeat
Sadio Mane admits he is flattered by suggested interest from Real Madrid, but insists he is happy at Liverpool and fully focused on trying to help them win the Champions League.
Reports from Spain in recent weeks have suggested that Real want to bring the Senegal forward and Manchester United's French midfielder Paul Pogba to the Santiago Bernabeu.
Mane will be in action on Sunday morning (Singapore time) across the city at Atletico Madrid's Wanda Metropolitano Stadium, which will host the Champions League final between Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur.
The 27-year-old has scored 17 goals in 24 matches for his club since the turn of the year, and is expected to lead his country's attack in Egypt at the African Nations Cup, which starts on June 21.
As he prepared for the European final, Mane was asked about interest from Real, and did not dismiss it altogether.
He did, though, insist that Liverpool's progress to the Champions League final - which has seen them knock out Bayern Munich, Porto and Barcelona - is a sign of their standing in the European game.
"This is part of football, so we have to deal with it," said Mane.
"But, for me, the more important thing is that I am with Liverpool, I am very happy here and I am preparing for one of the club's biggest games.
"Let's focus on this first, and on winning it. It's always a pleasure for this kind of team to want you but, Liverpool, don't forget, we beat big teams."
Mane scored for Liverpool in last season's Champions League final, which ended in the disappointment of a 3-1 defeat by Real in Kiev.
This time, they go to the final attempting to bounce back from the setback of missing out on a first English league title since 1990, having finished one point adrift of Manchester City despite dropping only 17 points all season.
Said Mane: "We didn't win the league, but we still have one trophy to go. So we are going to try to give everything to win it."
Mane remembers well the mood of dejection among the players as they waited at the airport in Kiev to fly home after last season's Champions League final defeat, and suggested that drove them on to reach this year's final.
"Yeah, of course," he said.
"We were a little bit disappointed last year because we wanted to win it. But it wasn't the case. That's part of football. But, at the same time, it's important to be positive.
"Many people, even you (the media), didn't expect us to play in this final, and we did it.
"So now we have learnt a lot from this, and I hope we're going to use our experience to get to where we want to be."
Mohamed Salah, one of Mane's strike partners, echoes those sentiments.
"This is our second final in a row," he said.
"We lost the first, but everything feels better this time around and we have more experience than last time.
"I hope we can win it. It will be tough. This is a final and no opponent would have been easy... It is harder because (Tottenham) are an English side."
Salah is especially keen to make a decisive contribution to help lay to rest the demons of Liverpool's defeat last season.
The Egyptian injured his shoulder in a tussle with Real defender Sergio Ramos during last year's final and was forced to leave the field with half an hour played.
"I hope I can play the full game this time. I'm very excited," Salah said.
"I hope we can right what happened last season, get a good result and win the competition.
"(Scoring the winner is) not just dream. I hope it becomes a reality and I score in the final." - AFP, REUTERS
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