'Mane convinced me to switch France for Senegal'

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Michail Antonio and Moussa Niakhate
Michail Antonio and Moussa Niakhate

A Premier League star has revealed that, despite representing France at youth level, he decided to switch his international allegiance to Senegal following a phone call from Bayern Munich star Sadio Mane. 

After winning the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations, which was staged in January this year, the Lions of Teranga are considered by many to be Africa's biggest hope at the 2022 FIFA World Cup as they are also the highest-ranked CAF nation in the world, sitting in 18th position.

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The side also boasts some of the best names representing the continent today, including reigning African Footballer of the Year Mane, Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy, and recently departed Paris Saint-Germain duo Abdou Diallo and Idrissa Gueye. 

With the showpiece in Qatar just under two months away, head coach Aliou Cisse has given new Nottingham Forest recruit Moussa Niakhate his maiden call-up for the team's upcoming international friendlies against Bolivia and Iran.

The centre-back was born in Roubaix, France, to Senegalese parents and represented the European nation from U19 level up to the U23s, but decided to switch his allegiance in June.

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With the defender seemingly set to get his first cap for the African nation in the coming days, Niakhate has now revealed that a phone call from the former Liverpool star helped persuade him to make the switch to Senegal.

"[Mane] asked me if I intended to play for Senegal, if I had the motivation to play for the Teranga Lions," the former Mainz centre-back told L’Equipe.

"Of course, I told him what was on my mind and he received it very well, he was very happy. Behind, he spoke to the coach about it.

"When Sadio came to see me and said 'Moussa, I would like you to come and help us because we have big goals', I was surprised.

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"It shows the person he is. I don't think I need to praise him more yet, we all know him.

"The fact that Sadio Mane is asking for you to help the people is obviously a defining moment in my life."

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