Jurgen Klopp says Sadio Mane was “surprised” when he subbed him off in Liverpool’s Champions League defeat by Atletico Madrid.
Diego Simeone proved the impregnable Reds can be beaten with some clever tactics in the first leg of their last-16 clash midweek.
These tactics included utilising the game’s dark arts, and Mane was among the Liverpool stars “targeted” by Atletico, according to Klopp.
As a result, Mane picked up a yellow card in the first half and was in danger of seeing red.
Klopp made the decision to remove the forward from the action, replacing him with last year’s Champions League hero Divock Origi.
On Mane’s reaction to being hooked, Klopp said: “I spoke to him this morning, I asked was he surprised and he said ‘yes’. I don’t think he had a chance, my honest opinion. We needed him physical, having contact with opponents.
“It’s part of the game, I don’t like it too much, the situation they created with eight players around the referee.
“I didn’t believe we could complete the game with XI with him on the pitch. But now he’s completely fine, he’s rested which is good as well.”
Klopp was much more agitated at having to take Mane off immediately after the defeat at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.
He told the press on the night: “Mane was targeted obviously that was clear. Mane played a really good first half and only thing they wanted was to make sure he got a yellow.
“The plan tonight was to get Sadio out of the game. I was afraid his opponent would go down if he took a deep breath.”