Jürgen Klopp had two things in common with the Atlético de Madrid players in the eighth minute of Tuesday’s gripping Champions League tie at the Wanda Metropolitano. First, he also didn’t feel the danger when Andy Robertson’s center went over the penalty area. Second, he quickly realized that Mohamed Salah is, today, perfecting the art of making the seemingly impossible possible.
No one studies Salah as closely on a daily basis or has coached him in as many games as Klopp and yet those moments when the Liverpool striker becomes an unstoppable force retain the ability to amaze. Manchester City felt it recently too. Last weekend it was Watford’s turn, followed by the extremely well-trained champions of Spain, as Salah became the first player in Liverpool’s 129-year history to score in nine consecutive games. He will become the first in Liverpool history to score on three consecutive trips to Old Trafford if he reaches the 10th on Sunday.
“I have been blessed with incredible players during my time,” Klopp began, recalling Salah’s first game against Atlético in his mind. “But no, when the ball went over all the players in that situation and Mo already had to run pretty fast to get it before the sideline and then turned around, it didn’t seem like an adequate scoring opportunity. But challenge after challenge became that.
“That’s the difference between a time when the urge is not on your side and when the urge is on your side. It’s about Mo’s quality right now to do it, to test it, and you can imagine how much all the Atlético players knew about this ability and desperately wanted to defend it and still couldn’t do it. That is very special. “
Klopp was momentarily stumped on Friday when asked to compare the Egyptian international to Cristiano Ronaldo. “Why should we compare Cristiano Ronaldo and Mo Salah?” he said after some hesitation. “They are both obviously world-class players. Mo’s left foot is probably better and Cristiano is probably better in the air and his right foot is a little better. As for speed, they are both quite fast and desperate to score. “
Where the Liverpool manager really detects a similarity is in the professionalism that enabled Ronaldo to rescue United against Atalanta at age 36 and that Salah brings to training every day. He believes it is one reason the 29-year-old can enjoy similar longevity at the highest level.
“You need luck, because things can happen, but I think that the professionalism of both is the only thing that can be compared 100%,” he said. “It’s probably the same. Mo is incredibly professional. He really is the first to enter and very often the last of all the players. You are constantly interested in all the things you can do and have to do to maintain or improve the standard. I think he still has a lot to give ”.
That hugely influential opinion inevitably leads to the current issue of Salah’s contract, and no agreement has yet been reached on the extension of a deal that has entered its last two years. The forward spent his day off on Thursday filming a Pepsi commercial in Liverpool city center. Pressure is mounting on Liverpool owners Fenway Sports Group to offer another lucrative endorsement of their own, one that reflects the market value of a player who has been repeatedly claimed by his own coach to be the best in the world in his current form.
If Salah follows Ronaldo’s lead and has at least another seven years ahead of him, surely that also improves his claims for the biggest contract Liverpool have ever paid for. “It helps him, for sure, and also the team he’s playing for; I hope it’s us, ”said a circumspect Klopp.
The numbers surrounding Salah are an awkward read for FSG and Ole Gunnar Solskjær as well, albeit in a different context, as the United manager plans how to beat Liverpool in a league match for the first time in seven attempts. “Salah is on fire,” Solskjær admitted on Friday. “Players like him don’t come very often. We have to enjoy these players from afar, not on Sunday, that’s too close.
Liverpool’s goal return from seven away games this season is 3, 3, 3, 3, 5, 5, 3, a staggering 3.57 average per game, including visits to Porto and Atlético. Twenty-two goals in eight games represents his most prolific start to a Premier League campaign with Klopp and his current expected goal figure of 2.55 per game is the highest of his reign.
Salah’s sublime form has improved the statistics, but a team that is already synonymous with intense and offensive football has made changes that have also elevated the Egyptian. Liverpool are taking more shots this season, averaging 20.75 per league game (166 out of eight starts) compared to 15-17 in the previous five seasons under Klopp. They’re doing it with less possession than in previous seasons, but more first-time passes in the final third, allowing Salah to show his clinical best against shaky defenses.
Klopp, aiming to record the 200th win of his reign on Sunday (including penalty shootout wins), doesn’t take prolific form for granted. He said: “It’s not that we’re in a situation now where we just rely on our goal scoring abilities and think, ‘We can concede two because we’ll score three anyway.’ It’s more of a coincidence that we scored so often. We create chances and score, but it’s quite strange that we do it in a row. I also love winning 1-0 soccer games. It would be a good idea to keep a clean sheet for the United game. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism