This week, on a BeIN Sports interaction, Jose Mourinho decided to defend Chelsea’s decision to sell Mohamed Salah back in 2015-16. And he defended the decision, as he generally defends everything, by shifting the blame to others, some unknowns at Chelsea and even Salah himself, in this case. His quotes:
“For a start people try to identify me as the coach that sold Salah. I am the coach that bought Salah. It’s completely the wrong idea…We wanted to work him, to become better and better and better. But he was more of the idea of wanting to play and not wait…When the club decided to sell him it was not me. I bought him, I did not sell him.”
Whatever the reason the Egyptian was sold for, it has been to AS Roma’s and now to Liverpool’s immense benefit. But even now, after being established as one of the most gifted attackers of this period, everything about him still continues to be questioned.
One Season Wonder
Naysayers have been quick to dismiss his stunning form for club and country in 2017-18 as a one-season wonder. They point to a myriad set of stats, from Salah’s performance at the World Cup, where Egypt expectedly did not go deep into the competition, or to the fact that his form for Liverpool early this season was not as prolific as it was towards the end of last season. Indeed, last season he scored a whopping 44 goals in 52 appearances for Liverpool. This season, so far, he has scored 19 in 31 appearances for his club in all competitions.
Indeed, the observations are all correct. But the conclusion about Mohamed Salah being a one-season wonder is being proven both hasty as well as incorrect as the season progresses. Of those 19, goals this season, the last 10 have come in the last 10 games, which might mean that several more are yet to come this season. In addition to his 19 goals, he has assisted 7 other goals in all competitions this season. Further, with his brace against Crystal Palace on Saturday afternoon, he moved two goals clear of Aubameyang and Harry Kane in the race for this season’s Golden Boot. And finally, those two goals on Saturday also got him to a total of 50 Premier League goals.
50 Premier League Goals
Now, if we look at the players who have been quickest to the milestone of 50 Premier League games, only three players – Andy Cole, Alan Shearer and Ruud van Nistelrooy have been quicker than Salah, having taken 65, 66 and 68 games respectively to Salah’s 72 games. While this is pretty impressive in itself because it clearly puts him ahead of the likes of Fernando Torres and Luis Suarez in the pantheon of Liverpool attackers and ahead of greats such as Thiery Henry and Sergio Aguero from across the league.
But, instead of the number of appearances, if we look for the player to reach 50 Premier League goals in the quickest time (minutes), then Salah pips all of them. He has reached the milestone in just 5,374 minutes, which is 90 less than Torres, 210 fewer than Sergio Aguero and almost 800 minutes fewer than Thiery Henry. Mohamed Salah can lay claim to the record of the quickest to reach 50 Premier League goals in terms of minutes played. By any measure of footballing prowess, Salah cannot be called a one-season wonder. But now, a new set of detractors have found a new topic to discuss – Salah and diving.
The Diving Allegations
When Salah and Liverpool were not awarded any penalties for almost a complete season, it seemed like the outcome of fair and square refereeing to every pundit around. But, like many random events, when Liverpool got a bunch of penalties recently, the referees got called for giving soft penalties to the Reds. And since several of these recent penalties were won through a foul on Salah, he has been the target of opponent fans’ ire, who have resorted to calling him a diver.
But, in my opinion, none of the penalties won by Salah this season have been dives. If any other player feels a tackle or push in the box, they are expected to go down. But, if Salah feels any contact in the box, he is expected not to go down. That is clearly absurd and shows the frustration of the fans who cannot understand why their defences are unable to contain Salah. Moreover, it just shows that opponent fans and some pundits are running out of the negatives for the Egyptian.
Mohamed Salah represents everything that has gone right with Jurgen Klopp’s transfer policy and tactics. He is among the finest attackers in the league and opponents will be better served by preparing to defend him, instead of whining about him. Footballing gurus such as Mourinho might have considered him to be a one-season wonder, but he clearly did not get that script. The script he is playing from currently is capable of taking him to one more Golden Boot and Liverpool to the much awaited and coveted Premier League title.