MICHAEL Obafemi is “an exceptional talent” and quicker than Sadio Mane. 

That is the verdict of his Saints teammate and fellow Republic of Ireland striker Shane Long.

Obafemi has been restricted to one Premier League start since scoring his first top-flight goal in the Boxing Day win against Chelsea.  

He was also very impressive when he played most of the 2-0 win at Crystal Palace two weeks ago and continued to move up the learning curve last week, when he played the last 20 minutes at Anfield.

Long has taken the teenager under his wing and reckons his fellow speedster will prove a big success in the Premier League.

“Mike is an exceptional talent - he’s ridiculously quick with that goalscorer’s instinct as well,” said Long, who is no slouch himself.

“I would say he’s maybe a little quicker than me, I’ll have to admit that! He’s really sharp off the spot. 

“I’m more of a long-distance sprinter but off the spot he’s rapid. 

“Maybe he looks quicker because his legs move faster but he’s got that sharpness from a standing start that Sadio Mane has. 

“But I would say Mike’s quicker than Mane, he’s the fastest I’ve played with at the club. 

“It takes your breath away how fast he moves past players. Moussa [Djenepo], Sofiane [Boufal] and Nathan [Redmond] all have it as well.” 

Long has enjoyed passing on his wisdom to Obafemi. 

“I just try to help him all sides of the game and relay my experience to him, hopefully he takes that on board, learns from it and moves on because I’ve seen players with big potential not reaching it,” he continued. 

“With Michael it’s different. I know that he’s got it in him to really kick on and become a really good player. 

“And when he needs help he knows that he can come to me.”

Long and Obafemi will both be hoping to be involved when Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy picks his squad for next month’s Euro 2020 play-off qualifier in Slovakia. 

“He could be a big player for us in the future but hopefully not too soon,” smiled Long.

 “I know he’s really enjoyed the experience with Ireland so far and is proud to wear that jersey.”