Senegal coach Aliou Cisse said Sadio Mane’s absence from the World Cup will be felt by fans across the globe after the forward was ruled out of the tournament with a leg injury.
Mane, who came second to Karim Benzema in this year’s Ballon D’Or vote for the world’s best player, damaged his right fibula playing for Bayern Munich and his absence was confirmed on Thursday in a crushing blow to Senegal’s hopes for the tournament.
Senegal kick off their campaign against the Netherlands at Al Thumama Stadium on Monday, and Cisse said the spectacle would be poorer without African football’s star attraction.
“We’re not just talking about the Senegalese people here. I think people all over the world,” he told reporters on Sunday.
“The whole football family is saddened by what has happened because he was the second best player in the world and he represents the African continent, as well as representing Senegal.
“It’s very, very sad for him. Especially, we wish him a speedy recovery. I hope he gets back to playing football as quickly as possible.”
Senegal forward Krepin Diatta described Mane as the team’s leader.
“When you talk about the spirit and the morale, of course, it affects you,” Diatta said. “He is our best player. He’s a leader in that respect. Of course, we would have liked him to be here but God decided otherwise.
“We do though still have a very strong mentality we are comfortable being together… It’s a big loss, but we have a strong mentality. We show teamwork and we’re good together. And I’m sure we’re going to get some good results at this World Cup.”
Senegal keeper Edouard Mendy has found himself on the bench at times at club side Chelsea this season, with Kepa Arrizabalaga preferred under new manager Graham Potter.
Cisse, however, said he was confident the keeper would show his ability at the World Cup.
“I’ve no doubt about his quality as a goalkeeper. And I’m sure that he is going to prove during this World Cup that he is one of those top goalkeepers,” he said.
“So hopefully he’ll have an excellent tournament. He’s got a lot to prove. But he’s going to rise to that challenge I’m sure.”