EPL

Fabinho backs Nunez and Diaz to step up for Liverpool after Mane departure

By Sports Desk July 18, 2022

Fabinho has backed Darwin Nunez and Luis Diaz to step up in Sadio Mane's absence for Liverpool, though he acknowledged the Uruguay striker may need time to adapt to the Premier League.

Liverpool narrowly missed out on a historic quadruple last term, winning both domestic cups but finishing as runners-up in the Premier League and Champions League as Mane scored 23 goals in all competitions.

The off-season has seen Jurgen Klopp remould his attack after Mane left for Bayern Munich, signing Nunez from Benfica in a deal potentially worth up to £85million (€100.5m), while Diaz made a positive impact after joining from Porto in January.

While Fabinho acknowledged Mane is a "big loss" for Liverpool, he remains confident the Reds' new-look attack will fire them into contention for more silverware next campaign.

"Darwin may need a bit of time to adapt, let's see, but a player like him can really change a team," Fabinho told the Athletic.

"He's a proper number nine. He's a goalscorer. He scored in both games against us in the Champions League. We know how good he is. 

"Even though we lost Sadio, I still believe that we can fight for everything. The team is still really strong.

"For a long time it was always Sadio on the left side. But we have Luis on the left side and we saw how well he played in the second half of last season. Luis will become increasingly important.

"At the end of the season, I spoke a lot with Sadio. He told me about the situation that he could leave. I was always saying to him, 'come on Sadio, stay here. You can win the Premier League and the Champions League right here, don't leave'. But I think he had already made his mind up. We had to respect that.

"Sadio had a really good story in a Liverpool shirt. He played for six years here and during that time he won everything you can win and he decided that he wanted a new challenge. That's okay.

"After the parade in Liverpool, everyone said goodbye to him. We knew there was a good chance he would be leaving. I always kept some hope that he would still stay but then it was all confirmed.

"Losing Sadio is a big loss. He was one of our best players but it's something that we can't change. We have to deal with it. Now other players have to step up and take on greater responsibility."

Next season will also see Fabinho assume a key role as Brazil look to end a 20-year wait for a World Cup win in Qatar, with the Selecao beginning their campaign against Serbia on November 24. 

And the midfield enforcer admitted ending his nation's long drought is in his thoughts as he suggested the timing of the tournament could be a positive for players.

"For us as players, I actually think it's good for us that the World Cup will be in November and December," he added. "Maybe around that time of year, we'll be in our best shape of the season.

"One of my big targets for the season is to play in the World Cup and try to win it for my country. 

"It's been 20 years since Brazil last won the World Cup and the people at home want so much for us to win it for the sixth time.

"I'm focused on giving my maximum to play a good season for Liverpool but I can't lie, the World Cup is also in my thoughts."

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