Breaking new ground has become such an established part of Mohamed Salah’s repertoire at Liverpool that sometimes it takes a fresh voice to remind us that his routine is, in fact, exceptional, and should be celebrated as such. The erudite Thomas Frank was that voice before the international break.
“Mo Salah gets praised a lot but I don’t know if he gets enough praise,” the Brentford manager said. “I think now, off the top of my head, he is the best player in the Premier League potentially. In terms of goals and assists, what a level. He must be one of the top offensive players in the world. Not top 10, but top three.”
The best player in the Premier League? Frank, as he acknowledged during a post-match press conference at Anfield, was thinking aloud while dissecting the details of a still-raw 3-0 defeat, not plotting to troll Erling Haaland and Manchester City. But for a Premier League manager not called Jürgen Klopp to put Salah on that pedestal, and presumably to bracket him with the 23-year-old Haaland and the 24-year-old Kylian Mbappé among the best offensive players in the world at the age of 31, demonstrated it is not only Liverpool fans who appreciate they are in the presence of greatness.
Salah’s phenomenal consistency – in terms of goals, influence, fitness and hunger – is one of the main reasons Liverpool can visit the Etihad Stadium confident of reclaiming their position as the greatest threat to City’s dominance. It is the game “the world pays the most to see”, claimed Klopp, when criticising the decision to switch the kick-off to 12.30pm on a Saturday after an international break. Haaland v Salah will be a key reason why, providing the former recovers from an ankle injury sustained with Norway.
Only the City centre-forward has scored more Premier League goals (13) than the Egypt international’s 10 this season, with Salah edging the assists four to three. Salah’s goals have come from 14 “big chances” – according to the Premier League’s criteria ( P1, P1, P1, P1, P1, P1, P1, P1, P1, P1, P1, P1, P1, P1, P1 ) while Haaland has benefited from 23. In terms of “big chances created” it is 11-3 in the Liverpool man’s favour.
That Salah has kept pace with Haaland while stationed out on the right, while adjusting to Darwin Núñez’s more explosive game after the departure of Roberto Firmino and with an entirely new midfield behind him is remarkable. But his goal ratio has improved this season, and is at its highest rate (0.83 per game) since the astonishing debut season at Anfield in 2017-18 that brought 32 goals in 36 Premier League games (0.88 per game) and the first of his two clean sweeps in the PFA and FWA player of the year awards.
Salah is two goals from 200 for Liverpool after 321 appearances, although he already has 200 goals in English football on account of two during a forgettable spell at Chelsea. In 117 Premier League games at Anfield he has produced a combined total of 119 goals and assists. The stats are ridiculous. City will be wary of them, too. Salah scored in all four games against Pep Guardiola’s treble-winners last season and has 11 goals in 18 appearances against City.
Then there are the individual records that Salah appears to be setting by the week at present. Take Liverpool’s past three home games. Against Toulouse he came on to score his 43rd goal in major European competitions for Liverpool, overtaking Thierry Henry as the most prolific marksman for an English club in Europe.
Three days later against Nottingham Forest, he became only the third Liverpool player to score in the opening five home league games of a season after Harry Chambers in 1922 and John Aldridge in 1987. Last time out against Brentford he claimed the record outright, making it six with a finish that left the beaten manager purring. “A clear signature Liverpool attack,” as Frank put it.
“We lose it, counterattack, bang, into Salah and it is a goal. But it is not always a goal for everyone in that situation. That is just the quality of the player and Liverpool’s quality.” The trademark finish also extended Salah’s run of scoring or assisting in Premier League matches at Anfield to 15 games, a sequence that stretches back to January.
The milestones are not confined to club level. In his next appearance after Brentford, Salah scored four in Egypt’s 6-0 rout of Djibouti. The feat meant he surpassed Mohamed Aboutrika as his country’s record goalscorer in World Cup qualifying with 15 goals.
But numbers alone do not encapsulate Salah’s remarkable level. His work rate, attitude and leadership have helped to underpin Liverpool’s recovery this season. On more difficult days when the performance has not been quite there, the Merseyside derby at Anfield last month for example, the striker has still emerged as the decisive influence. Alongside Virgil van Dijk, Trent Alexander-Arnold and the mainstays of Klopp’s squad, Salah appears driven to atone for the failure last season to qualify for the Champions League while setting standards for the new recruits to follow. Together they have restored Liverpool’s relentless mentality.
Over seven seasons as a Liverpool player Salah has missed only 10 Premier League games, and two of those were down to competing in the Africa Cup of Nations in 2022. Klopp must contend with that issue again in January when Salah could miss four league matches – including against Chelsea and Arsenal – depending on Egypt’s progress. But the forward’s fitness, along with his form, shows no sign of deterioration. “I think if we were to scan him the majority of the bones would be aged 19 or 20,” the Liverpool manager joked recently. “He just keeps himself in such good shape.”
Liverpool’s decision to reject a £150m offer from Al-Ittihad for their No 11 has been vindicated in less than three months. The threat inevitably remains of Saudi Arabia making another eye-watering play for the highest-profile Muslim footballer on the planet, and Salah will enter the final 12 months of his Liverpool contract next summer. But who is to say his head will be turned by the thought of playing in front of paltry crowds in the Saudi Pro League?
Salah’s records, milestones and insatiable appetite construct a convincing case for a contract extension from Liverpool, even if the last one was a protracted saga that came to a successful resolution only 17 months ago. Regardless of the next step, his value is lost on no one at Anfield. As Klopp said: “We appreciate him and everyone will appreciate him even more after his career because then you will say: ‘Wow, we saw something really special.’”