When the Liverpool hierarchy sanctioned the £36.9m purchase of Mohamed Salah in June 2017 – a transfer that represented Jürgen Klopp’s most expensive acquisition of his managerial career at the time – there was a collective raising of eyebrows among English football fans.
Salah had spent the past two and half seasons in Serie A looking to reignite his career following a disastrous spell with Chelsea – where he twice found himself shipped out on loan.
The Egyptian mustered just 13 league appearances in his three seasons at Stamford Bridge, eventually ending his Premier League torment by securing a permanent move to Roma.
Three years on and what had looked to be a gamble now represents one of the best pieces of business done by the Reds in the Premier League era.
Having recently secured their maiden Premier League crown – 30 years after their last top-flight triumph – the Merseysiders’ purchases of Alisson and Virgil van Dijk have rightly been lauded as hugely influential factors in the club’s success. However, the signing of Salah in 2017 was the real catalyst for this season’s triumph.
Since Klopp’s Anfield tenure began in October 2015, the club had made clear progression and the German tactician’s ethos and style was beginning to glean results. However – despite evident improvements defensively – a talismanic figure who could spearhead the club’s charge towards silverware was still top of the manager’s wishlist.
Salah’s extraordinary maiden campaign at Liverpool saw him notch a staggering 44 goals in all competitions. Prior to this, the most prolific marksmen in Klopp’s first two seasons with the club had been Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho, with measly returns of 13 and 14 respectively – Klopp had finally found his talisman, and Liverpool were ready for a title charge.
Perhaps the most impressive stat of Salah’s 2017/18 season was that the hitman scored in 34 in his 52 appearances – there was no ‘padding out’ figures against lowly opposition with multiple three or four goal hauls; the Egyptian King was a constant threat throughout the campaign.
The 28-year-old’s low centre of gravity and quick feet have seen his tendency to cut infield from the Liverpool right become a feature of the club’s play.
His Puskás Award winning goal against Everton in his first Merseyside derby typified everything the forward is about. Having received the ball on the right with his back to goal, Salah displayed the strength to bounce off Cuco Martina – shrugging the right back to the floor – before easily skipping past the combative Idrissa Gueye and curling a superb effort into the top corner.
While his goal output would be enough to see the name ‘Salah’ appear first on most team sheets, no player in a Klopp side gets by on individual glory alone.
Salah – along with Sadio Mané and Roberto Firmino – is responsible for providing his side’s first line of defence. The pressing of the Reds’ front three sets the tone for the rest of the side, laying the foundations for Klopp’s preferred gegenpressing tactic.
Arguably his finest performance to date in a Reds shirt came during the club’s run to the Champions League final in 2017/18. Salah’s Liverpool career has been built on an unassuming and humble personality who transforms into one of the most lethal forwards in the world when given a sight of goal – his performance against Roma in the semi-final embodied his ruthless nature as he disposed of his former employers.
The former Roma man hit two goals and two assists in an emphatic 5-2 win.
After a scintillating first season on his return to English football, many questioned whether Salah had the quality and the variety of play to avoid being a one-season wonder. Such is the Egypt international’s reliance on his left foot it’s clear to see why such issues were raised, however, knowing what he’s going to do and stopping him are two very different things.
He’s gone on to prove he’s far from just a flash in the pan, displaying consistency throughout his three seasons back in the Premier League, with only Alan Shearer scoring more in his first 100 games for a single Premier League team (the former Blackburn man notching 79 compared to Salah’s 70).
One criticism which has been levelled at the frontman – as is often the case with goalscorers – is that he’s too selfish in front of goal. This criticism led to a rather public fallout earlier this season, with teammate Mané showing clear frustration in the Reds’ clash with Burnley at Turf Moor.
While he does possess the greedy streak required to become a top marksman, his 54 assists in the last four seasons prove he’s a team player who’s just full of confidence, rather than an egotistical individual with his own interests at heart.
Most recently against Aston Villa, Salah displayed nous and the awareness of those around him to selflessly nod the ball back to Curtis Jones, allowing the youngster to notch his first goal for the club and subsequently wrap up the points for Klopp’s side.
Perhaps the biggest compliment you can pay Salah is not praising his individual performances but recognising the influence he’s had on the club as a whole.
Already with a Premier League and Champions League winner’s medal to his name, the Egyptian also holds the record for the highest win percentage of any Premier League player to play over 100 games, with his 73% win ratio eclipsing the record set back Claude Makélélé (71%) after his five-year spell at Chelsea.
The signing of Salah might have looked like a gamble at the time, but he’s proven to be arguably the Reds’ most influential signing of the Premier League era, and – following Liverpool’s coronation as champions of England – subsequently one of the most influential signings in Premier League history.