It’s been a while. Over three years now. But it’s back. Oh yes. It’s back.
Mohamed Salah has brought back that feeling of having a player in the side who is capable of winning a game on his own – something we’ve been lacking since Luis Suarez was sold to Barcelona in the Summer of 2014. When the Uruguay international left Anfield he took the ability to take on teams and beat them almost single-handedly and we’ve really missed having that star to make things happen that are beyond the vast majority of players.
Salah has been a revelation since he arrived from AS Roma in a deal worth somewhere around £35m in the Summer. Nobody predicted that he would break scoring records and be so prolific when he arrived. We all hoped that we had signed a player that would bring more pace and trickery, with some goal threat, to the team – but little did we know what was to come. The Egypt international has looked more a bargain with each game – most of which he is scoring goals in. His double against Stoke City on Wednesday evening took his tally to seventeen for the season and eight in the month of November – for which he is certain to win the player of the month award. And he was only a substitute at the bet365 Stadium.
His confidence has grown with each game and he has shaken off all the early criticism that he needed a handful of chances to score just once. His finishing has been getting better and better and his twelve Premier League goals have come from a shooting accuracy of 70% and from a total of 43 shots. It’s highly impressive work and he is outscoring the likes of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Suarez too so far this season. We haven’t seen a player score this many goals in a season since Suarez departed and we are weeks away from Christmas. None of our top scorers since Suarez went have managed to get twenty goals in all competitions across a whole season. Salah is just three away in less than half a campaign. This could become very special indeed.
The match-winning quality he has added to the team has also softened the responsibility on previous star player Philippe Coutinho. The Brazilian was looked to when the team needed a magic moment and that must’ve become heavy duty for the playmaker. It has also shown people that we can win games without the former Inter Milan player in the side, as shown on Wednesday, and going forward if he does complete his move to Barcelona in 2018. Coutinho has provided plenty of assists so far this season, but he hasn’t been looked to as the man to grab the goals that will snatch results – Salah has taken on that mantle already.
Manager Jurgen Klopp has admitted that his scouts needed to persuade him that Salah was the man to bring in and how pleased he must be that he listened to them. Julian Brandt and Christian Pulisic were top of his list of targets as he sought out another winger to add to the pace and directness that Sadio Mane brought when he was signed during the Summer of 2016. You’d have to be highly optimistic to think that either of those players could have made the impact, either immediate or long-term, that Salah has so far.
How Chelsea fans must wonder what happened to the player who struggled for games and goals after joining them in January 2014 – ahead of Liverpool. We were all very disappointed to miss out on bringing him to Anfield from Swiss club Basel and thought Chelsea had beaten us to a very good player. But things didn’t work out for him there and he was sent out on loan to Fiorentina before joining Roma permanently. The Serie A club must be kicking themselves that they let him go – and so cheaply too. If the reported interest from Real Madrid is true, and they must be sitting up and taking notice more with each goal, then we could expect to get at least five times what we paid for him a matter of months ago. Rumours continue to circulate about the future of Cristiano Ronaldo at the Bernabeu and Salah would be near the top of their shopping list should they need to find a replacement.
But we don’t want to even think about the prospect of such an exciting player being allowed to move on any time soon. He has captured the imagination of Liverpool supporters and long may it continue.