Leadership comes in many forms.
When you mention the word in the context of Liverpool, several names come to mind. Jordan Henderson, James Milner, and Virgil van Dijk — three of the four members of the first team’s leadership group, along with Georginio Wijnaldum — are all associated with being leaders, whether that’s through their vocal presence or by virtue of their respect-commanding aura.
A name you seldom hear mentioned when it comes to leaders in the Reds’ squad is Mohamed Salah. Perhaps it’s the Egyptian’s relatively calm on-field demeanour — remember, he rarely shows a shred of emotion in even celebrating a goal — that sees him overlooked when assessing the Anfield club’s playing personnel’s leadership qualities.
Maybe it’s the position in which he plays. Forwards are, after all, typecast as being selfish and greedy in their pursuit of the personal gain of goals. After all, Salah does — like any good attacking player — have that cold, killer streak in front of goal; that tunnel vision when presented with openings.
But it is through this naked ambition to succeed — a hell-bent chase of the best footballing version of himself — that the Reds’ number 11 has carried the team’s attacking hopes this season. Even amidst the carnage of the crippling injury crisis that has quenched Liverpool’s quest for consecutive Premier League titles, Salah has scored 17 league goals in 23 appearances while also providing three assists. Those goal creating figures look even more impressive in light of the fact that the former Roma attacker also had covid.
Sadio Mane, meanwhile, who is often measured against Salah has only scored seven goals in the league, totting up to 11 in all competitions. The Senegalese flier has also had the battle back from a covid infection, showing how inseparable the duo are in terms of comparisons. Roberto Firmino, whose lack of goals shouldn’t necessarily be used as a stick to beat him with — given that his role is, primarily, to facilitate others in their goal-scoring ambitions — has notched six times across the league, both domestic cups and the Champions League.
At the time of writing, Liverpool are still in with a shout of qualifying for the European Cup via the league, while their hopes of a route to the competition’s quarter-finals took a big boost with a 2-0 victory away from home against Red Bull Leipzig last week. Relinquishing their league title would have been a painful pill to swallow, but the fact that the Reds are still, by the tips of their fingernails, hanging onto salvaging their campaign is not totally down to Salah, but the Egyptian international — through his gritted, bloody-minded ambition — is the biggest factor.
In a sea of injury and inconsistency for Liverpool’s players, the former Chelsea striker has been a beacon of consistency, and a model and example to others in the squad.
The number 11 scored the opening goal against Leipzig, showing composure to slot the ball low past Peter Gulacsi in the German team’s goal. Given their torrid league form, the Anfield club has lost three games on the spin in their domestic competition, fans will hope that Salah’s goal will resuscitate the team’s season; bringing it from disaster to what could reasonably be described as a decent campaign, considering the circumstances.
\In an interview with The Beautiful Game podcast, Sky Pundit Micah Richards — who played with Salah at Fiorentina highlighted the Egyptian’s insatiable work ethic and drive to improve.
Salah himself took to Twitter recently and promised fans the team will turn their season around, like the champions that they are.
Given his brand of hard-working, standard-setting, leadership by example, you wouldn’t bet against them.