Where would Liverpool be without Mo Salah? It’s a question that got me thinking. Everyone talks about the transformative signings of Virgil van Dijk and Alisson Becker, but what about Mo?
He doesn’t just score goals. He scores important. Last season Salah’s goals were worth a whopping 17 points for Jürgen Klopp’s men. Had Salah spent the time on the sidelines that Van Dijk did last season, Liverpool would not have hosted AC Milan on Wednesday. It’s that simple.
It’s an incredible figure, but honestly, it comes as no surprise.
Mohamed Salah celebrates his opening goal in Liverpool’s win over Norwich – the Egyptian has an incredible scoring record and remains an integral part of the Reds’ success
Micah Richards played alongside Salah when the Egyptian was loaned to Fiorentina in 2015
I had the pleasure of playing with Mo in Florence for six months in 2015 and he always told me we would go for coffee in the afternoon about his ambition to become a star for Liverpool. They were the team he always looked to.
When he was hired by Chelsea from Fiorentina, he was frustrated with himself. It hadn’t gone well at Stamford Bridge, but it was always in his mind that he would go back to England and show everyone what he could do.
In those first weeks in Italy we spent a lot of time together. We had flats on either side of the Ponte Vecchio and he was just the most humble and considerate man you could want to meet. But he always thought about how to improve, looking for the benefits that would transform him.
Mo always took good care of himself; you see this amazing physique he has now, but the thing that stays with me was how well he used to eat. It was always salads, he was always careful. He doesn’t drink, of course, because he’s a Muslim and lived a very quiet life.
Salah has always kept himself in top shape and has watched everything he eats
The Egyptian star waves off his shirt to celebrate scoring against Manchester United in 2020
But during those first few weeks, as much as I clicked with him, I was confused by his situation. From what I saw every day in training I couldn’t understand how he hadn’t ripped it up for Chelsea. We all scratched our heads: how could anyone of his ability be loaned?
I’m not comparing Lionel Messi, but he did things that were Messi-esque. Football is littered with stories of players who are brilliant in training but don’t do it on match day, but Mo wasn’t like that – from the evidence I had – it wasn’t.
The match that sealed it for me with him was a Coppa Italia draw against Juventus in Turin. Juventus had already lost 47 games at home, they were excellent and would play the Champions League final later that spring.
However, on this particular night, Mo had them walking around in rags. His first goal was one to remember. I remember him picking up the ball in our half and all that skill, speed and power he had was used to devastating effect. He ran 70 yards, defeated three players, then fired an unstoppable shot.
Salah kisses the European Cup after Liverpool’s Champions League victory in 2019
Jurgen Klopp’s side followed that up by ending their long wait for the English title in 2020
We won 2-1 – Mo also scored the second – and from then on his life in Florence changed. He was a hero, with people waiting in the square in front of his apartment every day.
He went to Roma after his short stint with us and he eventually went to Liverpool, I knew they had a bargain of £36million.
However, for some reason I’m still not sure if he gets the credit he deserves. Is it because he plays international football for Egypt so we don’t see all their matches on TV? Is it because he rarely gives interviews and keeps himself out of the headlines?
I can’t see it any clearer: Mo is the best wide striker in the world.
He is absolutely outstanding, cementing the role that Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery have made their own with a goalscoring record that dwarfs many of the best No. 9 in Europe.
A few years ago I heard that Liverpool suggested we cash in on Mo and keep Sadio Mane instead. Wow! I couldn’t believe what I was hearing and I think the madness of that argument was proven by the statistic I gave at the beginning of this column.
Salah is adored by Liverpool fans and has already scored four times this season
The Egyptian star celebrates Wednesday night during Liverpool’s 3-2 win over AC Milan
I’ll say it again: 17 points last year – the difference between joining the glamor games or watching them from a distance. It’s really stunning… and here’s another one. His first season at Anfield, 2017-18. His goals were worth 16 points.
Without it, Liverpool will not be in the Champions League. Without Mo, Liverpool will not compete in the title race this season. Simply put, he is irreplaceable, the man for the big occasion and I hope the uncertainty surrounding his contract is resolved soon.
For what he brings to a team, only a few clubs can afford him. There’s no point going to Barcelona – who are in serious financial trouble anyway – and Real Madrid seem to be looking to finalize a deal for Kylian Mbappe, so that’s another option that’s gone.
No one in England will be able to buy him and Paris Saint-Germain are out of the equation for now, so that leaves him where he is.
And what’s wrong with that? Nothing. Liverpool was made for Mo and Mo was made for Liverpool. Together they can be an unstoppable force.