Salah the Best?
Despite a couple of down games in the past few weeks, the 2023/24 form of Liverpool’s Egyptian King, Mohamed Salah, has been largely sensational. I wrote late in the summer, how I believed the 31-year-old would likely head off to the AFCON in January, with real question marks over whether he would return. At that point, I was overwhelmed by the £200m bids that were rumoured to have been made by Al-Ittihad, from the Saudi Pro League. That period was amidst a summer of Anfield change and subsequent regeneration, one which has seen a much-required turnover of assets, within a previously underperforming squad.
I was not optimistic for a strong campaign (from the reds), as I believed the horrendous performances of last season would take time to overcome. In any rebuild it needs a moment to establish a new and competitive side, yet the signs are looking promising for a strong campaign. To my absolute delight, those previous reservations were misguided, as Liverpool sit 1st in the Premier League, one point ahead of Arsenal. This turnaround in fortunes has reversed my thoughts on a potential next destination for our legendary forward, who I sense will turn down any move in the winter, as well as next summer.
Why Would Salah Turn Down Riches from the Middle East?
Ultimately, any move to Al-Ittihad (the club interested in signing Salah) would take one of the world’s most elite players away from a top tier league. Despite the staggering riches on offer, it will be several years before the Saudi Pro League can truly establish themselves anywhere close to top European leagues. The likes of Jordan Henderson, Neymar, and Cristiano Ronaldo, have recently moved to the Middle East, more due to an inability to excel in any of the top European divisions. At no point soon, will any player be considered for major individual awards whilst operating in a secondary division of play. The 2023 Ballon d’Or was awarded to Lionel Messi, due to his exploits in steering Argentina to their recent World Cup victory.
Mohamed Salah is the greatest winger in Premier League history.
End of debate.
200 goals in 7 seasons for Liverpool is mad.
— 𝑾𝒊𝒍𝒄𝒐🧣 (@WilcoFtbl) December 9, 2023
His astonishing international achievement (and good form for PSG) was enough to see him beat Erling Haaland to the award, which was also a recognition of a life time of greatness. A summer move to Inter Miami has all but ended Messi’s participation for future awards, which opens a real contest for who comes next. Given the drive and desire that has been shown throughout the glittering career of Liverpool’s number 11, I cannot imagine that he will give up on his dream of being awarded an illustrious Ballon d’Or, especially considering the strong level both he and his team are currently exerting. With the Anfield club still likely to add more young and exciting talent in future windows, it would be interesting to see how the all-time great evolves as the attacking talisman of that group.
Ballon d’Or Contenders in the Coming Seasons
Below are some names they will undoubtedly come into Ballon d’Or consideration over the coming few seasons:
- Erling Haaland
- Kevin De Bruyne
- Vinicius Junior
- Harry Kane
- Jude Bellingham
- Kylian Mbappé
- Virgil van Dijk
- Mohamed Salah
- Victor Osimhen
Early Frontrunners for Football’s Top Honours
From the above, domestic success, Champions League glory, and international honours, all play a part in deciding who will be in the running. In Spain, Real Madrid are currently top of La Liga, with Jude Bellingham enjoying an unbelievable first season at the Bernabéu. If the Birmingham born youngster were to win major silverware for his club (whilst having a strong 2024 European Championships for England), he would immediately become one of the favourites. Harry Kane can be considered in that same category also, whereas if Manchester City once again win a major haul before their 115-charge sanctions are imposed, their own key assets will become interesting options. All the world-class players listed above can have cases for being contenders, however, in terms of Virgil van Dijk and especially Mohamed Salah, the next two seasons could still see them as viable candidates.
How Can Liverpool Aid Their Players in the Hunt for future Ballon d’Or’s?
The last time a Liverpool player won this award, it was Michael Owen who pipped Raúl and Oliver Khan in 2001. That year had seen the former red shine within a team that won the FA Cup, League Cup, UEFA Cup, and UEFA Super Cup. Non-participation in the Champions League that season did not deter his voters. The former red scored consistently for his club as they achieved brilliant cup success, within a glorious year. Additionally, to that, a famous hat-trick against Germany in England’s 1-5 away win, thrust him into the minds of related football journalists.
Mohamed Salah is the first African player to score 150 Premier League goals.
Only nine players in the competition's history have more 🙇♂️ pic.twitter.com/FkHupLMEBg
— David McGrady (@Djmc76) December 9, 2023
The next few years will see Jürgen Klopp continue his quest to create Liverpool 2.0, which has already shown signs of emulating the team which came before. If Virgil and Mohamed Salah believe their German manager can deliver major silverware once again, this will play a huge factor in whether both decide to sign new long-term contracts. I have little doubt that Liverpool’s Dutch defender will extend to a multiyear deal, however, the transfer speculation surrounding his Egyptian teammate, makes that a more curious subject. After watching the former Roma forward for several years, no one can doubt the determination of the man that was once written off at Chelsea. I imagine he would look at those future contenders above and immediately place his level above their own. It is this mindset and desire for more recognition that should see him remain on Merseyside, to establish himself as the world’s greatest player. That target would never be achievable in Saudi Arabia, which is why the most logical next step is to see the legendary goal scorer realign his ambitions and prove any doubters wrong.
I am clearly biased, yet the argument is sound. The best day of Salah eclipses that of any other attacking player in the world right now, which is something the reds fanbase have been gifted to on many occasions this season. It is not inconceivable that his national team wins the upcoming AFCON, or that his club side go onto the win the Premier League, Europa League, or the two domestic cups. All these thoughts will be what sees the wide forward commit his long-term future to Liverpool, as he must see what is being regenerated and how that can propel him to what he craves the most.
Mohamed Salah was once the world’s greatest in waiting, which is something I believe he can be once again.