Football News

Jurgen Klopp: I thought Mohamed Salah’s Liverpool record had already happened

By Harry Edwards

Published: 12:13, 15 March 2024

Mohamed Salah was a record-breaker in Liverpool’s 6-1 Europa League win over Sparta Prague, but manager Jurgen Klopp thought he had already done it!

Liverpool went into the second leg of their Europa League last 16 tie against Sparta Prague 5-1 up on aggregate, knowing that they were almost certain of reaching the quarter-finals. Only a monumental collapse at Anfield would have put them in jeopardy, but this Liverpool side look incapable of anything close to that right now.

But it was still a very professional performance, and Liverpool asserted their quality. The Reds were 4-0 up inside 15 minutes, the quickest such lead in Europa League history. By the end of the game, Liverpool became just the second team to score 11 goals across two legs of a Europa League knockout tie, after Lyon vs AZ Alkmaar in 2017.

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There were goals on the night for Darwin Nunez, Bobby Clark, Dominik Szoboszlai and Cody Gakpo (two), but the most significant strike was that of Salah. The Egyptian was starting for Liverpool for the first time since New Year’s Day, having missed games through the Africa Cup of Nations and then injury.

The break hampered what had been a fantastic first half of the season for Salah, who was fighting very close with Erling Haaland at the top of the Premier League Golden Boot charts — the Egyptian had scored 14 goals in his first 20 appearances.

Scoring the fourth at Anfield on Thursday, Salah took his tally for the season to 20 across all competitions, with four in the Europa League, 15 now in the Premier League and one in the EFL Cup. Twenty goals in a season, especially when it has come after just 31 games, is a remarkable feat on its own. Fans had grown accustomed to frankly silly numbers from Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, but this is the normal standard.

But Salah hasn’t just hit 20 goals in a single season. He’s now done it in seven consecutive campaigns. Seven! In a row! No player has ever done that in Liverpool’s history. The previous best, which was tied by Salah last season, was six consecutive campaigns by Ian Rush between 1981/82 and 1986/87. But in total, Rush still has the record Salah needs to beat, scoring 20+ goals in nine seasons across two spells.

Of players in Liverpool’s top nine goalscorers (with seasonal records unavailable for 10th-placed Harry Chambers), Salah is one of just four players to have netted in at least five consecutive seasons. Joining Salah and Rush are Roger Hunt – five consecutive seasons between 1961/62 and 1965/66 – and Gordon Hodgson – five consecutive seasons between 1930/31 and 1934/35. But that duo have a record that Salah has equalled, both scored 20+ goals in seven seasons for Liverpool.

Moving further down, Billy Lidden scored 20+ goals for Liverpool in four consecutive seasons between 1954/55 and 1957/58. Then, Robbie Fowler (1994/95-1996/97), Kenny Dalglish (1977/78-1979/80) and Michael Owen (2000/01-2002/03) all scored 20+ goals in three consecutive seasons. Owen did it five times in total, with only the 1999/2000 campaign letting him down. But Fowler was remarkable as all three of his 20+ seasons actually saw him score more than 30 goals. Salah has levelled that record, also held by Rush and Hunt, but the Egyptian can take it outright with 30 goals this season, after scoring 31 in 2020/21 and 2021/22 and 30 in 2022/23.

But, Klopp has revealed he thought Salah had already hit 20 goals for the season.

“The second stat is now not really surprising because he’s an outstanding player,” Klopp said when asked about Clark’s first goal and Mohamed Salah becoming the first Liverpool player to score 20+ goals in seven consecutive seasons.

“Mo is a special story today because it was not the plan that he plays 90 minutes. Actually the plan was to take him off in the moment when we brought Mateusz [Musialowski on] but then Bobby sat in front of me so it was clear we cannot do that now, that Bobby has to come off.

“But Mo is experienced enough that he recovered already during the game. I told him not to defend anymore – I don’t think I ever said that to a player. By the way, Mo, that’s different on Sunday!”

He continued: “I’ve worked seven years together with him, so one problem we never had was consistency. Mo is just delivering and delivering and delivering, his desire doesn’t stop. His quality is anyway there, but then his desire to score just doesn’t stop.

“He improved in so many aspects since he started here. He will not stop. So, I’m less surprised than maybe some others, I thought it had already happened, to be honest, in this season but he was injured for a while and that’s why he couldn’t do it [earlier] otherwise it would have happened in January or February.

“So, great, very good and, as I said, great to have him back.”