Football Features

“Genuinely world class” — Mohamed Salah closes in on Didier Drogba’s record as he joins the Premier League 100 club

By Ben Green

Published: 18:42, 12 September 2021

Mohamed Salah has joined Didier Drogba as one of just two African players to net 100 goals in the Premier League, as he closes in on the Chelsea legend’s overall tally of 104.

The Egyptian superstar brought up his century in a pulsating fixture at Elland Road between Liverpool and Leeds United on Sunday afternoon, finding the back of the net on the 20-minute mark after directing a pinpoint cross from Trent Alexander-Arnold past Illan Meslier.

By hitting triple digits Salah has become the fifth-fastest player to achieve that feat (162 games), and the quickest in Liverpool’s history, as he leapfrogs Robbie Fowler (175 games). Alan Shearer (124 games), Harry Kane (141 games), Sergio Aguero (147 games) and Thierry Henry (160 games) were those to reach 100 goals quicker.

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The 29-year-old brought up his 99th goal in the English top flight just before the international break against Chelsea, whom he scored his first for in a 6-0 London derby win over Arsenal in March 2014, but he has firmly gone on to establish his elite status on Merseyside.

And it is another former Chelsea forward’s record he is currently closing in on. Drogba, who represented the Blues between 2004 and 2012 (including a second stint in 2014/15), registered 104 goals during his trophy-laden stint at Stamford Bridge, becoming the first African centurion in the Premier League as a result.

Salah has joined the Ivory Coast immortal in that exclusive, esteemed club, and he is now only four goals shy of drawing level with him as the most-prolific African in Premier League history, and five away from surpassing him as the continent’s record goal-getter.

Gary Lineker led the eulogies for Liverpool’s talisman, tweeting that, together with Alexander-Arnold, the duo are “genuinely world class footballers”.

The 3-0 result in West Yorkshire ensures Jurgen Klopp’s men remain unbeaten this season as the Reds move third in the table and level on points with current Premier League pace-setters Manchester United, as well as European champions Chelsea in second.

In a game that often oscillated between mesmerising and madness, Liverpool overwhelmingly dominated Marcelo Bielsa’s men, as they registered 30 shots (their most since December 2018) and enjoyed the lion’s share of possession, with the hosts struggling to stamp their authority on proceedings.

Following Salah’s opener in the first half, Klopp’s men ensured the three points headed back to Anfield after Fabinho poked the ball home in exceptionally scruffy fashion, with the ball ping-ponging in Leeds’ box from an Alexander-Arnold corner before it found the Brazilian’s path.

A quick VAR check saw no infringement on Liverpool’s part and the game was pretty much dead and buried before the second half really got underway. Sadio Mane added the gloss with a coup de grace in the dying embers, capping off a fine weekend before attention turns to Milan in the Champions League.

Salah’s record Liverpool tally further embellishes his greatness at Anfield, but it has not just been his goalscoring that makes him such an invaluable part of Klopp’s side. Since moving to the Premier League Salah has registered 44 assists, the joint-eighth most since 2017/18 in Europe’s top five leagues.

Ahead of him in the playmaker charts during that timeframe are Thomas Muller (69), Lionel Messi (65), Kevin De Bruyne (64), Joshua Kimmich (56), Angel Di Maria (55), Jadon Sancho (51) and Kylian Mbappe (45). A goal fiend, yes, but also a very creative provider in his own right.

After the match Klopp told Sky Sports‘ Geoff Shreeves: “Yes, Mo’s records are crazy. What a player! And he is still hungry for more goals.

“In the dressing room after the game he was still not happy with himself for not scoring one or two more goals. That’s how world class players are.”

Of course, this contest was overshadowed and marred by a horror injury sustained by 18-year-old Harvey Elliott in the second half, who left the pitch on a stretcher after a clumsy challenge from Pascal Struijk. Referee Craig Pawson sent the Dutchman off on the hour mark. Klopp and Liverpool fans now await the medical team’s injury diagnosis.