Sadio Mane (2)

‘Smiling’ Ronaldinho inspires Mane

LIVERPOOL — Attacker Sadio Mane says he always try to play with a smile on his face to emulate his hero, Brazilian legend Ronaldinho.

Mane, 24, has been one of Liverpool’s stand-out performers at the start of the season, picking up a Goal of the Month along the way for his stunning individual effort against Arsenal on opening day.

“Some people say I don’t smile enough. I think they are wrong. I am usually smiling and having a laugh in training because I enjoy football,” the Senegal international told the club’s magazine.

“Ronaldinho always smiled and I’ve always tried to copy him. Footballers have plenty of reasons to smile. We have a great job.”

An attacking four of Mane, Roberto Firmino, Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana has attracted plenty of attention.

Mane believes manager Jurgen Klopp has given them the licence to play with freedom.

“It’s a system where everybody knows their job. Roberto, Coutinho, (Daniel) Sturidge, Adam … we know each other’s game.

“It’s become easier for us thanks to working on it and we are enjoying playing this way. Whether I’m starting up front or out wide isn’t really the most important thing.

“The manager says be free and then get into dangerous areas where you can hurt the opponents.”

Mane and Co are looking forward to the big Premier League match against bitter rivals Manchester United at Anfield on Tuesday (3am).

With the form Mane is in don’t be surprised if he is thorn to Jose Mourinho’s Red Devils. — Agencies

What’s up, Matic?

LONDON — Nemanja Matic has fuelled speculation of a Chelsea exit and a potential move to Italy after he was seen in Milan during the international break with his agent Giuseppe Riso.

Serie A champions Juventus were heavily linked with Matic over the summer with a move away from Stamford Bridge never materialising.

Manager Antonio Conte has said he is a keen admirer of the 28-year-old defensive midfielder, and insisted he would be going nowhere.

“Nemanja is an important player and he knows this,” Conte told reporters.

“There isn’t a problem with him — Nemanja was a Chelsea player and is a Chelsea player.”

Matic admitted this has given him motivation to do well for Chelsea.

“What he said gave me a special feeling,” said Matic.

“It was important for me to know I am a big part of his plans. I was happy to hear that.

“Like every player here, I have a good relationship with the manager. I respect what he said about me and of course I liked what I heard.

“I have been at the club for two-and-a-half years and have always given my best.

“Until I am here, I will continue to give everything to the team.” — Agencies

Frustrated Wimmer may leave Spurs

LONDON — Defender Kevin Wimmer suggested he could consider his Tottenham future in January if he does not get more first team football.

The Austria international centreback has played just once for Spurs this season in the League Cup and twice been an unused substitute, missing out entirely on seven match-day squads.

Wimmer, who signed a new five-year contract in the summer, has struggled with minor muscle problems this season but he played 90 minutes as Austria drew 2-2 with Wales last Thursday in a World cup qualifier.

He told Austrian newspaper Kleine Zeitung of his frustration.

“After last season, where I played towards the end quite frequently, I’m already down on other expectations for this season,” he said.

“That (the injury I had) has taken me back a bit. It is difficult at the moment but I am patiently waiting for my chance. I try to always stay positive.

“The feedback from the club are always they are very happy and they see the future with me. This is very positive, but it is about the here and now.”

When asked whether he would consider his future in the next transfer window, Wimmer said: “We will see what happens in the next few weeks; how much I start. We have a few midweek matches.” — Agencies

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