Mohamed Salah, please rise and take your seat upon the throne to rule the realms of deified footballers so bang in form, rival fans find themselves fawning at the mouth. There are simply no minds without an assessment of the Egyptian midfielder. No child not kicking about a ball waxing philosophical about the touch and pace of Liverpool’s new prince streaming down the flank and terrorizing boxes in his shiny number 11 red shirt. Monsieur Salah, your hour hath arrived!
Now, as we know, the game we love hinges on results. Simply put, football is a numbers based business nowadays. And the statistics point to the justification of the globe’s new found delirium over the man they call Mo. He is scoring freely (his twelve goals lead the Premier League charts and he has five more in the Champions League) and scoring on the big occasions: his debut versus Watford, against Sevilla, Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea. Seemingly no defender can keep up with his speed on the ball. Salah is lightning fast and has the technique in possession to be an absolute nightmare to battle against. And he finishes his chances. The proof is in the aforementioned numbers. He is scoring and assisting at will and Jürgen Klopp knows he has a bona fide monster on his hands. When Salah is on the pitch alongside Philippe Coutinho and Sadio Mané, Klopp’s Liverpool dons one of the most feared attacking three in world football.
It is moments like this here where we all become experts. In these times when a player starts to dominate and us fans, the media and anyone with vocal chords take any open opportunity to flex about how we all saw this coming. How we identified this world class talent years ago and had a full handle on what was to come. We knew then that now would happen. And my word, all of Planet Earth somehow has apparently been touting the prowess of Mohamed Salah from day numero uno. These moments where the tenets of hindsight are turned into sheer parody.
Salah was in the Premier League before. Before he went to Italy’s Serie A and showcased his skills for that country sporting the shirts of Fiorentina and then Roma. Before all of that, Mo wore the blue of Chelsea managed by then manager José Mourinho. Have you heard of him? Thought so. Because it is his name and the Chelsea name continually being dragged through the mud whenever any sort of positive or compliment is paid to Salah. As if we cannot just enjoy the fact that a world class star from Egypt plies his trade in Great Britain. It is a must that we bring someone else down in the meantime. As Britons, we are just plainly prohibited from enjoying the niceties of anything at any point of our sad and bleak lives. Thus, I am here to simply pour some common sense and objectivity onto everyone’s now highly qualified ideas regarding the superb abilities of Mr. Salah.
Mohamed Salah made a measly thirteen appearances for Chelsea in 12 months. The outcries you hear now are based on the fact that no one in theory gave Mo a chance at Stamford Bridge. That Mourinho did not quite know what he had on his hands. That Salah was dismissed as not good enough by the manager and brass in West London. But is that wholly accurate? Was it exactly clear that the Mohamed Salah Chelsea had on their books would become this starlet we see now? Lost in all the hoopla and lazy journalism is that Salah came to a stacked Chelsea team as a young boy. He was twenty-one years old fitted into a slight frame trying to break into a midfield with, in no particular order, Ramires, Willian, Nemanja Matić, Cesc Fàbregas, André Schürrle, John Obi Mikel, Frank Lampard, David Luiz, Juan Mata, Oscar and Eden Hazard. What an imposing list that is! A Chelsea team that finished third in Salah’s first half season and were crowned champions in his second half season (Salah would be loaned to Fiorentina in February 2015 with Juan Cuadrado coming the other way en route to an equally fruitless era at the Bridge). For perspective, Kevin de Bruyne, another hindsight is super duper sharpshooter perfect, was a year older than Salah and could not find his way into the XI making less appearances than Mo in that first season.
How do you fit Mohamed Salah into that team? A side that did not do much rotating. What was he offering at that time that Willian and Fàbregas, for instance, were not? The lineup was cemented and they were winning football matches, so I do not think this is a conversation of fault or mistake. Mourinho did not have use for Salah at the time and sent him out on loan, where he developed and excelled – the main objective of a loan spell. The real conversation and issue at hand, for another time mind you, is Chelsea’s transfer policy of stashing young talents they have neither room nor time to blood and loaning them out across Europe with a blatant and rambunctious trigger happiness.
This is not and should not be a moment for blame. Are there regrets? I have no doubts that Chelsea rue that they did not fully anticipate what Salah would matriculate into. But, these are the same regrets many teams have when losing players at a young age. You simply cannot keep every player and there surely is no way to grasp the foreshadowing of a superstar in every instance. Why don’t we hear about Southampton’s supposed gaffe in letting Gareth Bale go to Tottenham? Manchester United let Gerard Piqué go to Barcelona upon him realizing he had zero chance of usurping world beaters Nemanja Vidić and Rio Ferdinand as a starter in that formidable back line. Was that a mistake or a sensical approach to a younger player needing minutes to further his career? There are plentiful examples of managers letting players go, albeit reluctantly on many an occasion, only to see that individual go on to realize his potential amidst the glamour of stardom. Mohamed Salah now falls into that category. It is unfortunate that Chelsea were not equipped with the patience to allow Salah to grow, but is he the player of today without those crucial experiences in Italy? My point is that it is not so black and white and allotting blame right now is sincerely futile and flawed. Let us just relish in the current marvelousness of this man’s performances.
Can Mohamed Salah be stopped? As of now, no. The Reign of Mo, first of his name, continues, but the primary task for him now is to be able to put these numbers up with the newly painted bullseye on his back. From what we have seen so far, no problem, but there is much football to be played. All eyes are on the Egyptian Messi, and what happens next is up to him.