Liverpool forward Sadio Mane has experienced another setback in his recovery from a knee injury after being ruled out of the club's pre-season fixtures in Hong Kong. The Senegal international is recovering from a cruciate knee ligament injury suffered in April and was expected to figure during the off-season in an effort to be fit for the start of the campaign.
Mane was last week ruled out of the domestic friendlies against Tranmere Rovers [12 July] and Wigan Athletic [14 July] but the Reds were optimistic he would return in time to travel to Asia this weekend. However, following an assessment by the club's medical team Mane is not yet ready to return to first team training and will remain at home.
The news means Mane, who scored 13 goals and made eight assists in his first season at Liverpool, will be absent for the Barclays Asia Trophy games against Crystal Palace and either West Bromwich Albion or Leicester City and crucially will miss an opportunity to test his fitness ahead of the new season.
"He is really, really good. He is close; he is closing on coming back to team training," Klopp told the Liverpool official website. "In this moment, we think it will be when we are in Asia, so then it makes no sense to take him to Asia because he needs to then do the first steps in kind of team training. We will see how we can do it; maybe [some of] the Under-23s will be here, so when he can start this [training] then we can use this opportunity, but we have to wait.
"On Tuesday morning he was part of the running, so he is first-team training if you want and that looked really good. I think he is getting better, but it is how it is after a long time – you need to build a little bit of muscle again in the quad and thigh, which is important. There is no risk with him because he is a naturally fit boy and in the moment when he can start to be a real part of the sessions, he will then immediately be fit again. We have not all the time in the world, but we have time and we will use it."
Upon Liverpool's return from Asia they have four further friendlies which Mane will hope to use to prove his fitness ahead of the campaign which begins against Watford on 12 August. They face Hertha Berlin on 29 July before competing in the Audi Cup against Bayern Munich and either Atletico Madrid or Napoli, prior to facing Athletic Bilbao in their final pre-season game. Nevertheless, the news that Mane's return has been further delayed is another setback for a player recovering from a serious, season-ending injury.