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Liverpool forward Sadio Mane has admitted he has undergone medical testing in a bid to understand why he's struggling through "the worst season of my career".
One of the crucial elements in Liverpool's swaggering attacking brilliance in the years before the 2020/21 campaign began, Mane has scored 20+ goals in each of the previous three seasons for the Reds.
This campaign he has 14 goals in 44 matches and, more than that, hasn't looked like the sharp, all-action, livewire attacking threat of recent years. Things got so bad that the 29-year-old has explained how he even began to doubt his own body.
"This is the worst season of my career. I have to admit it," Mane told French television channel Canal+.
"If you ask me what is wrong I will struggle to give you an answer. Personally I don't know. I have always tried to be positive, whether things are going well or badly. I question myself all the time.
"I even underwent a test to take a look at my body. Am I eating the right foods, or has everything changed? But they checked the test results, and everything is fine."
It will be a relief for the club, for LFC fans and most importantly for the player himself that Mane's physical health is fine. But it does not help explain why his form has dipped so spectacularly.
Liverpool have struggled badly the season after they won the Premier League with 99 points. But that is - in part, at least - due to a defensive injury crisis that has robbed Jurgen Klopp of his three first-choice centre-backs for a large part of the season.
Occasionally using Fabinho and Jordan Henderson in defence also disrupted Liverpool's midfield.
However Mohamed Salah, Mane's fellow wide attacking ace, hasn't seen his form suffer at all as a result. The Egyptian has netted 29 goals - including 20 in the Premier League - and sits just one behind Harry Kane in the Golden Boot standings.
But Mane is not alone in struggling with the relentless nature of two football seasons interrupted by the pandemic, which forced the last campaign to run long into the summer. And as he only turned 29 in April, there is still time for him to get back to his sparkling best.
"I need to understand that in life there are ups and downs," said Mane to Canel+.
"I will keep on working hard - and perhaps in time this situation will pass."
All imagery: PA Images
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