Mohamed Salah does not give many interviews. So when he does, they tend to get people talking.
Salah’s sit-down with Spanish publication AS last week certainly did the trick. And for a man of few words – his ‘relationship’ with the British press extends to two mixed-zone chats totalling around six minutes – he was pretty forthcoming.
He was, he said, “very disappointed” at being overlooked for the captaincy in Liverpool’s recent Champions League game against FC Midtjylland. Trent Alexander-Arnold, six years Salah’s junior, wore the armband in Denmark, leaving the Egypt international unimpressed.
Then came a question about his Liverpool future, about how long he sees himself at Anfield.
Another interesting answer. “That’s a tough question,” he said. “Right now, I can say that everything is in the hands of the club.”
What about Barcelona and Real Madrid, then? AS, you may or may not know, is a publication with “leanings” towards Madrid, and so it was somewhat inevitable that Salah would be asked for his feelings on the Liga giants.
“I think Madrid and Barcelona are two top clubs – who knows what will happen in future?” he answered, though he did add, for the record, that his focus right now was on Liverpool, where he hopes to win the Premier League and Champions League and, to use his own phrase, “break all club records”.
He is certainly going the right way about that at the moment. If Salah’s mind is starting to wander, or if he is carrying a sense of disappointment or injustice, it is not showing in his performances.
His form is as strong as it has ever been. He is top of the scoring charts again, averaging a goal every 83 minutes in the Premier League. He has netted 16 in all competitions for Liverpool this season, including two off the bench at Crystal Palace on Saturday.
Salah’s omission from the starting line-up at Selhurst Park, naturally, drew a few raised eyebrows given the timing of that AS interview, but we really should not read anything into it.
Jurgen Klopp may not have appreciated having one of his decisions questioned so publicly by one of his players – it does not happen often – but he had planned to rest Salah at Palace regardless. He knows how important the 28-year-old is, and will do what he can to keep him fresh and firing.
And in any case, Liverpool’s 7-0 win in south London meant any debate over that particular call could be squashed pretty quickly.
Salah’s contract at Anfield, worth around £200,000-a-week, expires in the summer of 2023, and sources have told Goal the club are certain to offer an improved one. They want him to stay, no matter what Salah’s former international team-mate Mohamed Aboutrika says.
Salah, for his part, turns 29 next summer, and knows his next deal will the biggest of his career. And while he is content in England, it is fair to say he knows his own value. He also knows that in Real Madrid and Barca, as well as Paris Saint-Germain, he has plenty of admirers elsewhere.
Those clubs are not Liverpool, though, and if we are to take his talk of “breaking all club records” at face value, then there is no question that, in a sporting capacity, there is only one choice the Egyptian should make; stay on Merseyside and add to his legacy.
Some legacy. Salah’s record at Anfield is immense, already enough to place him among the club’s all-time greats.
He has played 173 times for the Reds in all competitions and scored 110 goals. He has won the Premier League, the Champions League, the UEFA Super Cup and, a year ago yesterday, the Club World Cup.
He has picked up two Premier League Golden Boots in three seasons, and is on course for another this term. He has been both the PFA Player of the Year and the FWA Footballer of the Year.
He is some player.
The No.11 who scores like a No.9 and creates like a No.10. He is chasing European Cup No.7 and English league title No.20 this season, and as long as he is fit and available, Liverpool will fancy their chances of landing both.
Maybe then, Salah will feel, he may command a little more respect within the wider footballing community. It is curious how, despite all the records and all the goals, all the trophies and all the magical, magical moments, there is still a feeling that he remains undervalued in some quarters – even among some Liverpool supporters, it should be added.
A victim of his own success, perhaps? Salah’s brilliance has been so regular, his form so reliable since his move from Roma in 2017 that fans and pundits have become almost immune to it. They expect it from him. When he races clear to slot, or pops up in the right place in the penalty area or bends one into the top corner from 25 yards, it is not surprising. It’s Mo Salah, it is what he does.
Maybe that explains why so many Salah debates hone in on other issues. His quality is not up for discussion, so people talk about his body language or his demeanour, his ‘selfishness’ or his relationship with Sadio Mane.
And so it does not hurt, from time to time, to be reminded just what a special player this is, and just what an impact he has made at Anfield. Game-changing, era-defining. A Liverpool great, without any shadow of a doubt.
If he does eventually choose to move on and try his hand elsewhere, he will have earned that right. Nobody could argue otherwise.
But right now, at 28, in his prime and playing for this team and for this manager, there is only one place Salah should be.
And it is not Madrid or Barcelona.