Senegal forward Sadio Mane has been ruled out of the World Cup in Qatar in a crushing blow to his team’s chances after officials confirmed on Thursday he would need surgery on a leg injury sustained in the run-up to the tournament.
Mane had been a doubt for the west African side after injuring his right fibula playing for German club Bayern Munich.
“Unfortunately, today’s (Thursday) MRI shows us that the recovery is not as favourable as we hoped and we unfortunately resolve to declare Sadio’s withdrawal from the World Cup,” Senegal team doctor Manuel Afonso told reporters.
The forward has been crucial to the recent success of Senegal, who are regarded as Africa’s best hope at the World Cup.
His absence will be a blow to their chances of advancing out of Group A, where they face the Netherlands on Monday before playing host nation Qatar and Ecuador.
Mane has been the team’s talisman, scoring the winning penalty at the Africa Cup of Nations final in Cameroon in February and six weeks later securing World Cup qualification. On both occasion they edged out Egypt on post-match penalties.
Mane, 30, has twice been named African Footballer of the Year.
Former Senegal star El Hadji Diouf said the team had suffered a “big loss” with African player of the year Sadio Mane ruled out of the World Cup.
“We’re going to miss Sadio because he’s a difference-maker,” said Diouf, a national team ambassador who was part of the Senegal side that reached the quarter-finals of the 2002 World Cup.
“But don’t forget we’ve been very strong because we also have (Edouard) Mendy, (Kalidou) Koulibaly, a great team.”
“It’s true the absence of Sadio Mane is a big loss for us, our leader isn’t here,” said Diouf. “Mane had a lot to do with this team getting here.
“But this team is a family, don’t forget that.”
He added: “We’ve got to work without him -- Senegal have to show the whole world what the African champions can do.
“Some teams don’t want to play Senegal because we have a good team with experienced players.”
(With inputs from AFP)