Mohamed Salah hard-working superstar: The rise of Liverpool and Egypt’s modest.
Mohamed Salah had already placed himself in Liverpool’s record books before a driving, darting run and angled finish for his second goal in Sunday’s thrilling 2-2 draw with Tottenham at Anfield was likened to a Lionel Messi moment.
When manager Jurgen Klopp’s £34.3m summer signing from Roma scored his first, he became the fastest Liverpool player to reach 20 Premier League goals. He achieved it in 25 games, two games quicker than Fernando Torres and Daniel Sturridge.
The 25-year-old has had a stunning impact since arriving at Anfield but this humble superstar, who is idolised in Egypt, has showed grit and determination to become a superstar.
‘Down to earth and quiet’ – Egypt’s modest icon
Salah’s status as a national hero in Egypt was already secure before his two goals, including a late penalty, in the win over Congo in Alexandria last October secured his country a place in the World Cup for the first time since 1990.
Salah’s brilliance, modesty and determination never to forget his roots had long made him an iconic figure and a source of national pride.
A school in the city of Basyoun and streets have been named in his honour. He also continues to retain strong links with the town of Nagrig in Gharbia in the north of the country. He is a regular benefactor and paid for a community gym as well as an all-weather pitch where future stars can hone their skills.
In January, Salah was received by Egypt’s president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Minister for Youth and Sports Khaled Abdel Aziz to be praised for his achievements and thanked for his contribution of 5m Egyptian pounds (£200,000) to the Tahiya Masr (‘Long Live Egypt’) fund to strengthen the economy.
Salah also donated 30,000 euros to the Association of Veteran Egyptian Players and when offered a luxury villa by a businessman as a reward for his winning goal against Congo in the World Cup qualifier, he rejected the offer and asked for the money to be donated to his home town.
It has also been a help that Salah played in Cairo for Arab Contractors (El Mokawloon) rather than either of the city’s bitter rivals Al Ahly and Zamalek, allowing him to act as a unifying force among Egypt’s fanatical football following.
When he was 14 he travelled more than four hours by bus, sometimes changing five times, from his home to train with Arab Contractors, then took the same return journey.
When Philippe Coutinho left Liverpool for Barcelona in a £142m deal in the January transfer window, there was a void was to be filled and Salah has stepped forward.
From his instinctive finish following Ederson’s poor clearance in the victory over runaway Premier League leaders Manchester City to the slaloming audacity of his second goal against Spurs, Salah has swiftly become the touchstone for fans craving a star of genuine world class.
|Salah’s 2017-18 in the Premier League…||...and how it compares to the best|
|Goals: 21||Second to Harry Kane (22)|
|Total shots (including blocked): 100||Second to Harry Kane (146)|
|Shots on target: 48||Second to Harry Kane (60)|
|Left-footed goals: 18||Top|
|Two or more goals in a game: 5 times||Second to Harry Kane (6)|
|Minutes per goal: 92.71||Fourth (but top excluding players who have only scored once)|
|Assists: 6||Joint ninth (Kevin de Bruyne top with 11)|
|Chances created: 41||14th (Kevin de Bruyne top with 78)|
|Dribbles completed: 63||Joint third (Eden Hazard top with 11)|
|Touches in opposition box: 185||Second to Raheem Sterling (190)|
When Salah finally arrived at Anfield last summer after leaving Chelsea for Fiorentina and then Roma, it was to relatively little fanfare.
So has his success come as a surprise?
Yakin, who was coach at Basel between October 2012 and May 2014, said after Salah scored in the 2013 Europa League quarter-final win against Tottenham: “If Mohamed could score as well, he would not be here any more.”
He says now: “At this time it was like that, but Mo is so smart and his will to learn and work at his game is fantastic. With constant working he is getting better and better.”
The idea that Liverpool had simply signed a player who was not good enough at Chelsea was swept away by his early performances – but the biggest revelation has been Salah’s ruthlessness in front of goal.
“He has surprised me and I’m not basing that on what he did or didn’t achieve at Chelsea. It is more on what I saw at Roma,” former Liverpool midfielder Jan Molby told BBC Sport.