Mohamed Salah completed a £34 million deal from Roma, penning a five-year contract, and he will wear the number 11 shirt. The fee, which could rise to a staggering £43.9 million with add-ons according to Roma, is a record transfer fee for the club, eclipsing the £35m spent on Andy Carroll from Newcastle United back in January 2011. He had previous Premier League experience when he played for Chelsea. The Egyptian was, after all, cast aside by the west Londoners after just 531 minutes of Premier League action in his solitary year at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea are due to receive a percentage of the Egypt international’s latest transfer fee.
The £11m the Blues paid FC Basel for a 21-year-old Salah in January 2014 was a calculated gamble. The Swiss side had been pulling up trees in Europe and Salah in particular. He scored against Chelsea in the Europa League semi-finals before netting home and away against Jose Mourinho’s side in the following season’s Champions League. And speaking about what has changed since his time at Stamford Bridge, Salah told the club’s official website:
“Everything, even my personality is different. I was a kid then, just 21. Now, four years on, I have a baby and everything is different”
So what has actually changed since he left Chelsea?
Salah’s switch to Florence revitalised the Egyptian. He scored six times in 10 Serie A starts for the Viola and supplied a further three assists, meaning he contributed to a goal every 100 minutes while in Italy. Unsurprisingly, Fiorentina were keen to make the deal permanent. But Salah, who had a further season to run on the loan agreement, was not.
Instead he joined Serie A rivals Roma on a season-long deal with the option to sign for the Giallorossi on a full-time basis at the end of the 2015-16 season. That might have put a few noses out of joint in Florence but Salah’s decision to join Roma has been more than vindicated. He scored 19 goals in 41 games and provided a further 12 assists for Roma last season, establishing himself as one of the most effective creative forces in Europe. Salah’s assist figures are particularly impressive. Only Napoli’s Jose Callejon has more (12) and the Egyptian also provides the second-most key passes per game (2.3) in Serie A.
Salah’s Style of Play
Less of a dribbler who likes to try to take the ball past opponents, Salah tries to spot gaps he can burst into in order to play himself and his team into space. He completed almost half the number of take-ons in Serie A last season (36) as Mane managed for Liverpool in the Premier League (68) and is some way off the pace of the most prolific players in Europe who are at their best when rushing opponents with the ball at their feet. Instead of getting up close and personal with defenders, Salah tries to pick his moments and avoid running into traffic when he can. The Egyptian does damage as a hit-and-run goal threat. His acceleration, agility and movement saw him carve out more goal-scoring opportunities from “fast breaks” – Opta’s definition of a counter-attack – than any other player in Serie A over the past two seasons, bar Cristian Tello.
Salah is strongest on his left foot yet can play on either wing, behind the striker or even alongside a target man. He enjoyed his best season for Roma largely deployed out on the right, where Mane has played for Liverpool since his move from Southampton in the summer of 2016, although the Egyptian also tended to come inside to get closer to striker Edin Dzeko and bring the ball onto his stronger foot instead of staying wide. Although depth may still be a problem for Liverpool, their latest addition to their attacking line-up offers something a bit different to what they already have, much in the same way that Mane was the only runner of his type in the squad last year.
The similarities with the players around him, and the unique notes he will add to the harmony of talents available to Klopp, will be key, more so than the question of formations or the specific position he will line up in. It seems more likely Salah will only make the Reds more wild and fluid up front, swapping places with Firmino, Lallana, Mane, especially if his purchase allows Coutinho to drop back into midfield to orchestrate all this creative chaos. There is a reason why, for all their exhilarating football and goals last year, that Coutinho, Mane and Firmino all ranked outside of the top 20 for goal involvement, and that’s down to how decentralised Liverpool’s attacking play has become under Klopp, spreading the threat about the team to make them less predictable and more dangerous. One of the most multi-faceted front lines in Europe is about to have a whole new dimension added to it in Mohamed Salah.
We also like to end this article with a skills and goals video of him in 2017.