Jurgen Klopp: Letting Mane, Salah fly to African awards 'a sign of respect'
Liverpool forward Sadio Mane will fly to Ghana 24 hours before Friday's FA Cup Merseyside derby against Everton with manager Jurgen Klopp's full support.
The Senegal international will travel with Liverpool teammate Mohamed Salah as both are on the shortlist for the Confederation of African Football's player of the year award.
However, with Salah an injury doubt for the game, as is Philippe Coutinho, the importance of Mane has become greater in the short term than that of new £75 million signing Virgil van Dijk, and it was highlighted in the 2-1 win at Burnley.
Mane scored a brilliant opener -- only his second Premier League strike since August -- and may have to play a key role against Everton, but Klopp will not prevent him from travelling to Africa.
"Sadio is unbelievably important for us," Klopp said. "He is strong, quick, so many things. He scores a goal like this and it is like, 'Wow.'
"We have everything organised. We have two of the three best African players in our squad. We have to show them respect.
"If it had been a matchday they wouldn't have asked. We sleep in a hotel, they sleep in a plane. That is all the difference.
"If Mo is not fit, it will not be for that [travelling]. For our side, it is just a sign of respect. I had [Pierre-Emerick] Aubameyang [at Borussia Dortmund] and there is nothing more important than to go there."
Van Dijk was officially confirmed as a Liverpool player on Monday after the paperwork on a world-record deal for a defender was finalised, with all negotiations with Southampton and the player concluded last week.
Klopp refused to say whether the centre-back was in contention to face Everton.
"I don't know," he said. "We made a few tests. No rush. He is on fire, really wants [to play], but we have to make sure he can perform.
"Centre-half is a position which depends on the others in the pitch. That means you have to tune it so you work together.
"After Friday, we have a little bit more time. It is a long-time project. It is not important when his first game [is] but how many good games [he has]."
Ragnar Klavan, meanwhile, has welcomed Van Dijk's arrival despite the likely impact on his own first-team chances.
Klavan, a £4.2m buy from Augsburg in July 2016, is fourth-choice centre-back but said: "He is a good addition to our team.
"It is like it is for everyone: there is competition and competition is good for all places."