Midtjylland’s Socceroos winger Awer Mabil is already plotting a shirt swap with Liverpool’s Senegalese maestro Sadio Mane, as the reality of qualifying for the UEFA Champions League group stage kicks in.
The coronavirus might say otherwise after Mane’s overnight positive result, but with the Anfield tie against the 2018 winners at the end of October there’s every chance Mabil will get his wish.
He’s about to live a dream first conceived as a young boy marooned in a Kenyan refugee camp before Adelaide became his home and a launchpad into Europe.
Whatever ultimately transpires in Group D, which also includes recent semi-finalists Ajax and Atalanta, Mabil and his Danish upstarts are promising a joy ride for fans in terms of entertainment and enterprise.
The journey into the unknown begins with the visit of Atalanta to Denmark on October 22, but it’s the Merseyside mission six days later which will attract a more forensic lens.
Having provided the assist for Sory Kaba which set Midtjylland on their way to a stunning come-from-behind 4-1 playoff demolition of Slavia Prague, Mabil, 25, plans to milk the most from every minute in the world’s premier club competition.
“I was driving home the other day from training with Kaba and he gets a video call from (Liverpool midfielder) Naby Keita,” said Mabil.
“I’d talked to him (Keita) before in London when we were there with the team, and I asked him to make sure I get to swap shirts with Mane at Anfield after the game.
“I know everybody is going to be fighting for it ... so let’s see.
“He said he’ll do it and if he keeps his word fantastic.
“Kaba and Keita are good friends who play together for Guinea’s national team.
“People might not talk about him as much as Mo Salah but for me Mane’s been Liverpool’s best player over the last two or three years.
“I look forward seeing how he is and what I can learn from him and add to my game.”
Mabil believes Midtjylland will thrive at an elevated altitude they’ve never touched in their history before.
“It’s exciting to test ourselves against the best in this group,” he added.
“People wont expect us to do anything, which is the best part about it.
“We’re up against three really good teams, but we know we’re really good also.
“We’re looking forward to the first game, getting the nerves out of the legs and going again. We’re going to surprise a few people.
“We’ll attack and press everybody - there will be parking the bus from us.
“That’s not in our DNA. We’re an aggressive team that's full-on in every match, and that won’t change in the Champions League.
“When we play against good teams it’s better for us. A lot of teams in Denmark just sit back against us.
“But when we face a team that’s dominant and has quality players we love it because we can surprise them.
“The mentality of this team has got stronger and stronger over the last couple of years, and has put us where we are now.”
Mabil’s emotions bubbled to the surface in the dying moments against Prague, as his incredible life and football journey flashed before him.
“It was everything at once - growing up I used to watch Champions League before going to school,” he reflected.
“And to be playing in it just kicked in after our third goal went in.
“All the hard work, the things I’ve faced in my life (like the loss of sister Bor in a car accident last year), struggling to make the team when I first came.
“I couldn’t control it and that’s why I had to come off in the last minute. The coach asked if I was ok but I couldn’t talk.
“I was gone and it was good he took me off.”