Rennes wonderkid Jeremy Doku has explained why he turned down a move to Liverpool after a chat with Sadio Mane three years ago.
Doku, who finished 14th in Goal's 2021 NXGN list of the top wonderkids in football, made his senior debut at Anderlecht in 2018 before Rennes snapped him up for €26 million (£22m/$31m).
The teenager claims he snubbed advances from three Premier League clubs in favour of moving to Roazhon Park, including Liverpool, having been offered some perspective on his future during discussions with Mane.
What's been said?
"I was going to be 16 and that was the age you can sign a pro contract. A lot of teams came to see me," Doku told Ouest-France. "Everyone talks about Liverpool because it was the most concrete interest but there was also Arsenal and Chelsea.
"I was able to discuss with Jurgen [Klopp], Mane, [Georginio] Wijnaldum… [Steven] Gerrard too. I talked a lot with Mane but we didn't really talk about football. We talked about everything.
"He told me that I was young, that I still had time… he wasn't trying to convince me or to say to me 'come here, you will succeed'.
"I preferred to be careful. I know what my trajectory had to be. That’s why, at 15, I told myself it had become serious, because I’d seen my career. I know what route I needed to take and I knew at that moment I needed to stay at Anderlecht.
"As soon as I’m asked if I regret it, I always say no, because if Liverpool came to me at 15, if they like me, they’ll come back later, that’s certain. It’s up to me to be play well."
How has Doku performed for Rennes this season?
Doku has managed to establish himself as a regular in the Rennes starting XI in his debut campaign, but has yet to fully repay the club's initial investment in his talent.
The 18-year-old has only scored three goals in his first 38 games across all competitions for the French outfit, the latest of which came in a 3-1 win over Metz at the weekend, while also laying on seven assists for his team-mates.
A measure of Doku's potential, however, is proved by the fact he was included in Roberto Martinez's latest Belgium squad for the start of their 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign.
The bigger picture
Doku's decision to continue his development at Rennes instead of Liverpool has already paid off in terms of his minutes on the pitch.
The former Anderlecht star is playing far more frequently at Roazhon Park than he would have at Anfield, where Jurgen Klopp already has an all-star attacking arsenal at his disposal.
Rennes have given Doku the chance to show off his ability in both Ligue 1 and the Champions League, with that experience likely to be invaluable as he matures as a player.