The Egyptian King Who Rules Liverpool
Mo Salah’s journey in football is enough to get anyone believing in their own potential after being told they are not good enough to cut it. The 25-year-old Egyptian is currently experiencing a seismic change in fortunes from this time last season. Salah was playing his trade in the capital of Italy last season for Roma and, whilst playing well, he certainly wasn’t being spoken about.
When in Rome
Salah arrived at Roma after Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho sold him to the Italian outfit. There wasn’t a lot of fanfare around his arrival in Rome and there certainly wasn’t a period of mourning in Chelsea after he left. The football world didn’t blink an eyelid as Salah made the two and a half hour flight from London to Rome to begin a new chapter and, in many ways, a new life.
Arriving in Rome wasn’t an entirely foreign experience, given that Salah had been on loan there before he made the move official. Chelsea were looking for a club to carry the burden of Salah’s wages and Roma obliged. On his second coming at the Stadio Olimpico, Salah put his head down and played with more freedom now that he was at a club that once again coveted his services.
During the 2016/2017 season, Salah enjoyed a productive spell for Roma where he played 41 times and scored 19 goals. The beauty of Salah’s game is that his contribution doesn’t begin and end with scoring goals. In those 41 games, he chipped in with 15 assists and, by doing so, caught the attention of Jurgen Klopp.
When contact was first made by Liverpool with Roma and Salah’s representatives, there was a lot of scepticism in the media. That doubt and lack of conviction in the media grew as it became clear Liverpool intended to sign the Egyptian. If Chelsea got rid of him a season ago, why was he now good enough to make a contribution at Liverpool? In fairness, all of the concerns being raised were legitimate ones, especially when it was announced Liverpool had forked out £37m to capture his services.
Klopp alluded to Salah’s incredible pace, which would add depth to a Liverpool side that were returning to the Champions League. Looking back at it now, it becomes evident that not even Klopp knew how big an impact the Egyptian would have. When a club signs a prospective game changer, they don’t talk him up by saying he will add depth.
A King is Born
Salah’s debut for Liverpool in the league came against Watford at Vicarage Road in a game that saw six goals. The Reds played out to a 3-3 draw with the Hornets and Salah announced himself with a goal as well as an assist. It was a great individual debut in what was an alarming spectacle for the Liverpool fans as they shipped three goals against a team that had good odds of being relegated. Perhaps the carnage at the back distracted everyone from Salah’s performance but that wouldn’t be the case for much longer.
In the opening eight league games of Salah’s Liverpool career, he netted four goals and contributed two assists but, unbelievably, this would be his most unproductive time of the season. In the 11 games that followed, Salah scored 11 goals and, by doing so, had the Liverpool fans beginning to worship his every step.
The Egyptian’s electric burst of pace, as well as lethal left foot, have left defences around England and the continent without an answer so far this season. His early season form didn’t stop and, to date, Salah now has 39 goals in 44 games this season. He is the Premier League’s top scorer and, without a doubt, the most feared winger in Europe at the moment.
Roma in the semi-finals? 👀 pic.twitter.com/KLwzGjxHox
— Liverpool FC News (@LivEchoLFC) April 10, 2018
It is that form that has come at the right time for Egypt as well. Salah single-handedly helped secure Egypt’s place at the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the Pharaohs will believe they can enjoy a long run. Oddschecker has the Egyptians at 301/1 in World Cup winners betting odds so hoisting the trophy aloft may be a bridge too far. Getting out of their group will be a great result and one Salah can help see become a reality.
All of Mo Salah’s footballing prospects look very rosy at the minute but it hasn’t always been the case. The Egyptian attacker was a rough diamond that needed moulding into perfection.
The Road to the Throne
Any form of success can always be explained and it doesn’t just happen on the off chance. That much is certain and especially in Mo Salah’s case given his dramatic rise to the very top of the game in world football. Why, then, is Salah more effective now than ever before?
The catalyst for change in Salah’s game that led to his newfound success has been the way he now manages his contribution. During his time at Roma but, in particular, Chelsea, the Egyptian used to focus on dribbling and flashy skills rather than scoring goals or assisting them. Salah has those attributes in the locker but relied on them too heavily to succeed and, because of that, was deemed surplus to requirements at Stamford Bridge.
Having Eden Hazard ahead of him would have also limited opportunities at Chelsea and put a huge amount of pressure on him to succeed. During the rare times he was called on, Salah tried to exhibit everything in his arsenal and looked like he lacked composure and the nous needed to unlock Premier League defences.
All a promising individual in any walk of life needs is a bit of backing in order for them to express themselves effectively and successfully. When you couple confidence with maturity, the results can surpass any expectation put on an individual. Salah used his time in Italy to mature and was given the confidence he needed once Klopp asked him to join his project at Liverpool.
The results now speak for themselves, with Salah focusing on a team result rather than individual performances. Rio Ferdinand said it best when he said: “all he wants to do is finish games now”. When he gets the ball to at his feet, the move doesn’t break down because he tries to do too much and, in the process, loses the ball. Upon receiving the ball, Salah always looks for the sensible option, which is resulting in him scoring more goals.
Salah’s goal against City in the second leg of the Champions League quarter-final epitomizes the way he now plays the game and the rewards that follow.
Wijnaldum slid a pass to Salah, which made three City defenders panic and desperately try to close the Egyptian down. Salah could have quite easily taken a touch onto his left and had a shot at goal and that is probably what he would have done a few seasons ago. Instead, Salah got the ball from out of his feet and to Mane who was free, Mane’s effort was spilt by Ederson into the path of an alert Salah. From there, Salah cooly chipped the ball into the net in a situation where most players would have panicked. If ever there was thirty seconds that summed up the brilliance of Mo Salah, that was it.
Mo Salah: “I love football because it gives me the opportunity to make people smile.”
What a man. pic.twitter.com/DuiJ18iboJ
— Players Sayings (@PlayersSayings) April 2, 2018
How Long Will the King Reign in Liverpool For?
Whatever happens from here on, Mo Salah will always be a cult hero at Liverpool. That is providing he doesn’t move to Manchester United, back to Chelsea or across the city to Everton. All of those three possible outcomes seem as unlikely as a fan-funded statue of Michael Owen going up outside Anfield.
The sobering realization for Liverpool fans is that the vultures are beginning to circle. When a player performs as consistently as Salah does, the financial giants of world football begin to look for the chequebook.
Liverpool will be hoping that Salah repays the faith that the club had in him by prolonging his stay at Anfield. Football often doesn’t work like that and long-term Liverpool loyalties died out at roughly the same time Steven Gerrard hung up his boots. The Anfield faithful will have at least until the end of the season to witness first hand the miracles King Salah is producing.