Mane has developed into one of the Reds’ most consistent performers since his move to Anfield from Southampton back in 2016.
The Senegal international helped to fire Liverpool to a fourth-placed finish in the Premier League in his first campaign at the club.
However, Mane will be out of action for a number of weeks after he suffered a hamstring injury while on international duty with Senegal.
It means that he will miss Saturday lunchtime’s crunch clash with Manchester United at Anfield and a number of the Reds’ most important games.
And former Manchester United defender Neville admits that he never expected Mane to develop into such a crucial player for Liverpool when he first signed for the Reds from Southampton.
Speaking to Sky Sports, ex-defender Neville said: “Sadio Mane has become such a force for Liverpool. He’s definitely the attacker who offers something different for Liverpool, but they have still got Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho so they do offer a real threat.
“You would have never said before Mane joined he’d be the most pivotal player but you would now say, given what happened during the African Cup of Nations last season, losing him is a big psychological blow.
“However, they do have Salah, who does fill that speed gap and gives them something else, so that ultimately means the loss is less of an issue this time.”
Liverpool head into Saturday’s game at Anfield looking to return to winning ways after the disappointment of their 1-1 draw with Newcastle before the international break.
The Reds finished fourth in the table last season but currently find themselves in seventh place in the Premier League after seven games of the new campaign.
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