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Salah’s move to Stamford Bridge didn't work out, but Liverpool had kept a close eye on his progress, first with Fiorentina, then with Roma, and by the spring of 2017, they were ready to make their move.
Three years on, their persistence and their conviction have been well and truly rewarded. At £36.9 million ($47m), the Egyptian stands as one of the great bargains of modern times, for any club.
He’s scored goals alright. There have been 91 in 144 appearances in all competitions; 70 in 100 in the Premier League. He’s already 18thon Liverpool’s all-time list, and he hasn’t even finished his third full season at the club yet.
“He’s an outstanding striker, a world-class striker,” said Jurgen Klopp after the Reds’ last league game, a 2-1 win over Bournemouth in which Salah had become the first Liverpool player since Michael Owen, in 2002-03, to score 20 goals in three consecutive seasons.
He got an incredible 44 in his maiden campaign, followed that up with 27 last season and is well on course to match or surpass that tally this time around.
He’s also got his eye on a little piece of English football history as well.
Only two players, Alan Shearer and Thierry Henry, have ever won the Premier League Golden Boot award in three consecutive seasons, and only the great Jimmy Greaves managed the same feat in the old First Division.
Salah has the chance to join them. With nine games remaining, he is joint-third in the scoring charts on 16 goals, level with Sergio Aguero, one behind Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and within three of the current leader, Leicester star Jamie Vardy.
Liverpool have obvious business to take care of first – they need just six points to clinch their first league title since 1990 – but with games against the likes of Crystal Palace, Burnley, Aston Villa, Brighton and Newcastle to come, as well as high-profile matches with Everton, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal, the opportunity is there for Salah to move towards yet another personal milestone.
He’s a team player, the 27-year-old, but you can bet your life he’ll have Vardy in his sights once that first whistle blows.
Who would have thought that when he left Chelsea in 2015, having scored just twice in 19 appearances?
Mourinho has described the Salah he met in London as “a lonely and naive boy, completely out of context and physically fragile,” while Jon Obi Mikel, his former team-mate, has admitted that his rise to stardom at Liverpool caught him by surprise.
“I believed in his development,” Mikel told OnTime Sports recently, “but, frankly, I did not imagine that he would reach the quality that he has now.”
Now, Salah stands as one of the world’s elite players, a figure as recognisable off the pitch as he is on it. He’s a Champions League winner, a Club World Cup champion, soon to be a Premier League winner. He’s already well on his way to becoming a legend at a club that has plenty to choose from.
And yet still there remains a nagging suspicion, that perhaps Salah’s exploits are not fully appreciated, that his excellence has become so regular that it is simply expected. Even among Liverpool supporters, there are plenty who believe he is undervalued.
He has not, for example, been mentioned as a potential PFA Player of the Year winner, and yet he is the top scorer of the side 25 points clear at the top of the table.
The claims of Jordan Henderson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Sadio Mane and Virgil van Dijk have all rightly been pushed, but Salah’s contribution has been as sizeable as any.
His consistency is remarkable. He remains not only a prolific scorer, but an elite creator as well.
No player has created more chances from open play this season for Liverpool than he has, while since his arrival in 2017 only Roberto Firmino has been credited with more assists. Even that’s close – 36 to 34 in Firmino’s favour; Salah, of course, dwarfs the Brazilian when it comes to goals – 91 to 54.
Those goals often come in big games, too. He has already scored against Manchester City, Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester United this season, as well as important strikes home and away against Salzburg.
Last year, he netted crucially against the likes of Chelsea, Southampton and Napoli, and scored the opener in the Champions League final against Tottenham. Twelve times, in fact, he grabbed Liverpool’s first goal in a game they went on to win.
That’s Salah– decisive and deadly. Wasteful at times, yes, and certainly single-minded. But also quick and strong, composed and consistent, always fit and hungry,and with his eye on another record-breaking season.
Time to start putting some respect on the Egyptian King’s name, perhaps?
Maybe a league title and a third Golden Boot in three seasons will do the trick.