The Extraordinary Story of Mo Salah
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Disappointment When Mohamed Salah was first introduced to the English Premier League on 8th February 2014, coming on as a substitute as Eden Hazard’s imperious (and only) hat-trick in English football saw off Newcastle United, great things were expected of the pacey wide-man. He had already starred in Egypt for El Mokawloon, notching a solid eleven goals in thirty-eight appearances, before joining Basel in the Swiss League and helping them to two League titles from 2012 to 2014. During that time, Salah netted three times against Chelsea in European competitions and was generally a menace. January rolled around and Brendan Rodgers saw Salah as a useful addition to a side gunning for a shock title win, but Jose Mourinho stepped in first and signed him for around £10m. Liverpool fans today must wonder what might have been if Salah had been around for those final heart-breaking matches in 2014. A first goal followed after memorably latching onto a pass from fellow January acquisition Nemanja Matic, before slotting underneath Arsenal’s Wojciech Szczesny in the legendary 6-0 drubbing of Arsene Wenger’s side, all but ending their title hopes in March. In April, Salah starred against Stoke, opening the scoring, winning a penalty and notching an assist in another 3-0 win. Sadly, that was as good as it got for the Egyptian in West London. Apparently struggling to settle, as well as never really convincing Jose Mourinho with his work-rate and attitude, he was used sparingly in the 2014-15 season before joining Fiorentina on-loan. Jose Mourinho almost apologetically promised him a League winner medal despite only making 3 appearances for the future Champions. Orientation When Salah joined Fiorentina on an 18-month loan as part of the Juan Cuadrado deal, both parties looked to have got good business. Chelsea finally signed a goal-scoring assist machine (at least according to scattered YouTube clips) whilst Salah got a chance to show what he could do. He notched 6 goals for La Viola who tried to sign him permanently, but Salah had impressed other eyes. He refused their offer and joined Roma on loan controversially for a year, for around £4m, with a buyout of £13m. Salah started well and made Fiorentina pay, scoring at the Stadium Artemio Franchi before picking up a very rare red card. Fifteen goals, six assists in all competitions saw the quiet Egyptian defy doubters and pick up Player of the Season for Roma. An unsurprising permanent move followed, and Salah continued to excel. He picked up a brilliant hat-trick against Bologna in a 3-0 win at the Stadio Olimpico and once again picked up nineteen goals in forty-one appearances. Roma’s financial issues were well-documented and Jurgen Klopp saw a chance to finally get Mohamed Salah to Liverpool. Rebirth
a first goal on his debut in the topsy-turvy 3-3 draw against Watford.
His finish against Hoffenheim in the Champions League qualifiers showed a very different Salah to the slight humble youngster who wilted under the pressure of fighting against Eden Hazard, Oscar et. al. When he netted a brace against Maribor in October, he looked every bit the superstar that Liverpool paid big money for.
At the end of November, Salah hit top form getting to the top of the Premier League goal-scoring charts, playing on the wings of Liverpool’s fab-four; Coutinho supplying the bullets for Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and the newly-crowned Egyptian King. Salah began to back himself more as well, using his pace to directly burst away from defenders and although at time his finishes did lack some finesse, you could rapidly see the improvements he was showing.
The Egyptian King
Although Coutinho left for Spanish shores in January, Salah seemed to relish the new responsibility on his shoulders. Four goals against Watford - his first ever four-goal haul- took his total to thirty-six in a debut season.
The twenty-five-year-old had overtaken Lionel Messi and Harry Kane to be the leading goalscorer in Europe - much to Kane’s distress. The centre-forward’s nerves became farcical after he embarrassingly claimed Eriksen’s goal against Stoke. Jealous whispers from disgruntled rivals started to label Liverpool as a one-man team, a la Suarez in 2014 and Torres in 2008.
Salah’s brace against Roma last week saw him become the first Liverpool player to score ten times in the Champions League, as well as being the first African to achieve this goal. The Egyptian King chant is almost a constant staple now at Anfield, venerating the 2018 PFA Player of the Year. Barring another miracle in the Coliseum, you’d imagine Salah will be a key player in Kiev in May.
The Pharoah of Anfield has set all sorts of records this season and if Liverpool were to manage to win the Champions League against all odds, combined with a solid World Cup for potential surprise package Egypt, you wouldn’t be against him winning the Balon d'Or. That would truly cap an unbelievable year. You would say it is almost certain that Salah will be named in the UEFA Team of the Year.
Klopp says Salah won’t be sold regardless of what happens, as he takes the new role as the crown jewel of a resurgent Liverpool. A rumoured £200m price tag seems absurd, but worryingly for Liverpool, it might not put off some of the European heavyweights in this crazy transfer market.
You have to wonder if the bright lights of Real Madrid or the Qatari petrodollars of Paris Saint-Germain came calling whether Salah might think twice.
He seems very happy at Liverpool, but Salah will be aware Real Madrid are looking to replace Gareth Bale this summer and he might be a perfect fit in their side.
And Paris, wounded after their disappointing Champions League campaign will be looking for a right-sided partner for Neymar.
At 25, he is starting to come towards his prime and at his absolute world-class peak of power the Egyptian Messi might actually realistically rival the exploits of his Argentinian counterpart.
Media Credit - Wikipedia Commons. Flickr Commons, cchana. BT Sport.
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