Football Features

Mohamed Salah: Liverpool’s true era-defining signing?

By Chris Smith

Mohamed Salah: Liverpool's true era-defining signing?

Published: 12:00, 15 June 2020

On 22nd June, 2017, Mohamed Salah swapped Roma for Liverpool in a deal reportedly worth an initial £36.9m. That’s a hefty sum for a ‘Chelsea reject’, isn’t it?

Fast forward almost three years and Salah has done a fine job in proving detractors of that deal wrong, scoring an immense amount of goals to fire Liverpool to European glory while, on a personal level, even elevating himself to rockstar status, his face emblazoned on the front cover of Time Magazine and in mural form on New York landmarks.

While predicting who will be remembered as the face of this fantastic Liverpool side, a la Kenny Dalglish or Steven Gerrard with previous iterations, you’d be tempted to offer up Virgil van Dijk. After all, the illustrious centre-back came second only to Lionel Messi in the 2019 Ballon d’Or voting and the effect he’s had on Jurgen Klopp’s defence has been as clear as night and day.

Alisson Becker also deserves a mention for his unflappable nature and defining moments in big games between the sticks, as does captain Jordan Henderson, the man who was rejected by Sir Alex Ferguson because of his running technique but went on to lift the Uefa Champions League trophy, and likely the Premier League, as captain.

But despite the immense talent at Anfield right now – we haven’t even mentioned Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino or local lad Trent Alexander-Arnold – it is Salah’s arrival that marks the watershed moment in all they have since achieved.

Of the 113 Premier League games Salah has featured in, the Egyptian has been on the winning side 83 times, giving him a remarkable 73% win rate. It is the highest of any player to feature more than 100 times in the competition. Filter out the 13 games he played for Chelsea and it rises to 75%. Even closest rivals Claude Makelele (71%) and Paulo Fereira (72%) of Jose Mourinho’s 2004/05 defensive juggernauts and iconic Manchester United captain Nemanja Vidic (71%) can’t get near him.

Until someone surpasses his record of 32 goals scored in 2017/18, Salah’s place in the Premier League history books is secure. But, to delve deeper, since he joined Liverpool, no player in the Premier League has scored more goals in total (70), had more shots on target (174) or had more touches in the opposition box (852) than Salah, while he ranks fourth, joint-fourth and second respectively for dribbles completed (204), assists (24) and big chances created (40).

“He is an outstanding striker, a world-class striker,” Klopp said of Salah after he once again reached the 20-goal mark for the season across all competitions in March, something he’s done in each of his three campaigns at Liverpool.

“It’s really nice, I’m really happy for him that he reached that mark and I think Sadio [Mane] has the chance to do similar stuff. That would be really cool.

“We need the boys because, with all the good stuff you can do on the pitch, in the end, you need somebody to finish it off and very often, thank God, it was Mo.”

Former Reds midfielder Danny Murphy even placed him above the likes of Luis Suarez as the best Liverpool signing of the last decade thanks to his “consistency and durability”, as well as his “unassuming” nature.

 

Arsene Wenger, whose Arsenal side never managed to beat Liverpool following Salah’s arrival, said there was a touch of Lionel Messi about the Egyptian’s game ahead of the Reds’ Club World Cup final against Flamengo in December.

“I like the way of his evolution,” Wenger told beIN SPORTS in front of a visibly delighted Klopp. “Because he had touches last night [against Monterrey] of a playmaker.

“He created chances around the box that are exceptional, there were things of Messi in him last night and I like that a guy who can score so many goals also becomes the guy who gives assists.

“That is a complete player. That’s what we all admire and what we want from our players.”

More recently, it has been suggested that Salah – winner of the last two Premier League Golden Boots – could leave Liverpool.

However, the 28-year-old was quick to dismiss this, responding with three laughing emojis when Sky Sports posted a picture of him on their Instagram story along with the question, “keep or sell?”

This was followed by Salah’s agent, Ramy Abbas, listing his achievements on Twitter, highlighting his client’s importance to the Merseyside giants.

Even in a game that churns out celebrities year after year, Salah is one of a select few to transcend the sport itself. After all, not many footballers – or soccer players, if you will – receive such a high level of exposure in the United States. Along with his appearance on the front cover, Salah was voted into Time Magazine’s “TIME 100” most influential people on the planet for 2019.

This year, as the world battles with the coronavirus pandemic, Salah has reportedly donated $500,000 worth of food supplies to his home village of Nagrig, also building a $450,000 water treatment plant, a hospital, a school and a youth centre.

“They support everyone but they have a special [feeling] for Mo Salah,” said former Liverpool winger Nabil El Zhar when talking about how Salah is perceived in North Africa and Qatar, where he now plays, recently.

“For myself, too, because he’s Arabic, he’s a good example. The image he gives to the people, it’s very positive and we take him as an example to someone that stays humble, works hard and achieves his dreams.”

Some saw greatness in Salah even before his Liverpool debut. Roma legend Francesco Totti gave a glowing reference of Salah, the person, last year, revealing he remains in touch with the Egyptian to this day.

“With Momo I had a particular relation,” Totti told beIN Sports.

“In fact every time he played and scored with me, he always told me he felt like a different player because he had fun and liked the way I put him in front of goal with my assists.

“He is an exceptional person and a true man who gave a lot to [Roma]. We’re still in touch by message and I’m very happy to say that I met a great player and a great person.”

Liverpool’s historic list of legends is as long and mouth-wateringly spectacular as any club you’ll find on the planet. And through a mix of genius on the pitch and quiet humility off it, Salah is perhaps the first of those around for the Jurgen Klopp era to have secured his place among them.

Mohamed Salah stats

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