Tumultuous January for Egypt, Liverpool leaves Mohamed Salah’s future under scrutiny again
Riyadh: It may not be much more than a month old but 2024 is already proving to be intense for Mohamed Salah.
The Africa Cup of Nations was a huge disappointment both for player and country as Egypt failed to win a game and went home early. Salah, star player and captain, left even earlier due to injury and was already back in England.
The situation in Liverpool may have felt stable and calm for Salah but maybe not for much longer. Things are changing at Anfield in ways that nobody could have imagined just a few weeks ago.
Last week’s shock announcement from Jurgen Klopp that he will be leaving his position as head coach at the end of this season after eight-and-a-half very successful years, does not automatically signal the departure of Salah. It does mean, however, that an era is coming to an end and there is now uncertainty when there was not before.
With one of the world’s best coaches with whom he has enjoyed a beautiful and successful relationship now leaving, it would be understandable if Salah, who has always seemed happy at Liverpool, at least considered his future.
It could be that the move to Saudi Arabia that did not happen last summer, could go ahead.
The 31-year-old, who has become a world-class player at Anfield since arriving from Roma in 2017, may feel that he has done everything and won everything there is to win at Anfield: The English Premier League – ending a 30-year wait for Liverpool fans – the UEFA Champions League, FA and League cups, and the FIFA Club World Cup.
The only trophy missing is the Europa League, and the Reds are currently going well in that. It would be fitting indeed if Klopp ended his time at Liverpool with his hands on that piece of silverware and the same can be said of Salah.
It is not just the trophies – and there would have been a lot more had it not been for Manchester City and Real Madrid – but the acclaim and adulation. Salah quickly became a hero for Liverpool fans with his goals, play, and attitude. Just before leaving for Africa, he scored his 200th goal for the club. Long ago, he became a Liverpool legend. Whatever he does from now on, that is not going to change.
And then there is something else. Salah is still a world-class forward and would be missed by pretty much any club in Europe. Yet it is clear that Liverpool are not quite as reliant on him than they used to be. When he went off injured in the 2018 Champions League final against Real Madrid, the team’s confidence took a noticeable dip. Now, Liverpool are flying.
Without him, they have won five out of six games, and the one draw came in the second leg of the League Cup semi-final against Fulham which was enough to book a spot in the final.
The 4-1 win over Chelsea on Tuesday was perhaps the best performance of the season so far. Luis Diaz, Darwin Nunez, and Diogo Jota looked very sharp indeed.
Salah will walk back into the team when fit but when he is absent, Liverpool look much more capable of managing without him.
All that could help change the mindset a little of both player and Liverpool. That then may mean that if there is serious interest this summer then there could be a warmer reception than in the past.
Last time it was Al-Ittihad who were interested. This summer there is likely to be a repeat and not just from the Jeddah giants. The prospect of bringing the biggest Arab football star to Saudi Arabia will be an attractive one for any club.
If the financial offer is similar to the amounts being talked about a few months ago, then it would be strange if Liverpool did not at least consider it.
When this season finishes, Salah will have 12 months left on his contract meaning that next January, he will be able to talk to other clubs ahead of leaving on a free transfer.
For the club, the prospect of giving a new coach a significant amount of money to spend could be important especially as there is the prospect of getting nothing 12 months later. This comes at a time when the team looks strong without him.
For Salah, it depends on his personal preference. If he feels like his time at Anfield is not going to last for too much longer and with Klopp leaving and if an offer comes in and the club considers it, then he is sure to think about his options.
Both player and club may decide that sooner is better than later. Whatever happens, he will leave as a legend.