Mo Salah scored his 25th goal of the season in last Wednesday’s defeat of Leipzig. The Egyptian continues to break records but is yet to be considered as one of the world’s best players, which begs the question: Why do we still underrate Mo Salah?
It is a tough question; maybe it is the slight disappointment he exudes after firing a blank during a comfortable win, or the constant (sometimes unwarranted) accusations of diving, that disenchant the neutral. Maybe, just maybe, the selective memory of the average fan remembers his moments of selfishness, not his moments of inspiration.
However, this season, despite the Red’s well-documented struggles, no player has been more clinical than Mo Salah. Limping Liverpool would be lifeless without his 17 league goals – some of which he scored as his team’s creativity spluttered. Salah’s class lays in his consistency. He is the slick engine of a sports car, that has had its tires slashed; a machine that has powered the unwilling Reds on more than one occasion recently. His goals against Leipzig kept Liverpool’s season alive and his stunning counter, against West Ham, is one of the smoothest moves in Premier League history. But yet, there is no mention of a 2021 PFA Player of the Year nomination.
To discern this injustice, all one needs to do is follow Opta Sport’s Twitter feed. Every post uploaded to prove an attacker’s potency includes the phrase: ’Only Mo Salah has more’. He features so often that the thumbs of the Opta admin team must fight their own neurotransmitters, to stop themselves from tapping his name whenever they see a keyboard. The Liverpool forward has simply evolved into the benchmark against which all Premier League strikers are measured.
Mo Salah’s popularity lacks in Liverpool too. The Kopites obviously adore him but he has yet to reach the previous reverence of a Luis Suaréz or a Fernando Torres (despite comfortably outscoring both). There is a desire, that is farfetched due to Liverpool’s current league position, for Kylian Mbappé to replace the Egyptian. The Frenchman is world class but he is more incomplete than Salah. Mbappé may match Mo’s goal-scoring statistics, but given the calibre of opposition he currently plays against, there is no guarantee that the starlet surpasses Salah as a Premier League player. Mbappé is a generational talent; if he cannot score more than Mo, for Liverpool, then it is unlikely that any player in the world can improve the Reds by replacing the Egyptian.
The moment that summarises attitudes towards Mo Salah was his goal against Atlanta. The forward ran the length of the pitch before slowing the defender and bending the ball into the top corner. In a blur of pace, guile and composure the Egyptian put Liverpool out of sight in Italy. Fans and pundits alike appreciated the goal at the time but have since forgotten it. But why? It is a strike that few world players could accomplish. People take Salah for granted but, should the unthinkable happen and he leave the club, Liverpool will miss him greatly.