Mo Salah certainly isn’t known for his modesty when it comes to his own achievements, as any fan of Premier League highlights in recent years can attest. In a week where Pep Guardiola made an unexpected appearance at Pep Guardiola’s weekly press conference, just to trash talk, Salah emerged as the standout star of a week packed with thrilling performances.
Now, with Salah having spent five years largely in the background at Chelsea before making the move to Liverpool this summer, pundits have long been questioning whether Salah might have a higher profile if he never left Stamford Bridge. Instead, he’s been playing a game that no one else has since 1992: spineless, devalued, and definitely underrated. So what has happened to Salah?
During Salah’s time at Chelsea, there was little to instil the impression that he was a professional, let alone one worth a transfer fee of around £34m, though he was far from the only Chelsea player to be criticized in that way. The arguments about Salah’s suitability to the Premier League could be traced back to his second spell at Chelsea (which ended in 2006), which saw him spend the second half of the 2005/06 season on loan at Roma, where he established himself as a prolific scorer of goals, captaining the Italian side to their UEFA Cup victory.
Salah didn’t score enough goals during his time at Chelsea to provoke a defensive backlash, but there was no doubt that he was good enough. He scored 48 goals in 72 games for Chelsea, more than any other player at the club except Didier Drogba. Despite scoring 31 goals that season, Salah was surprisingly left out of the Chelsea side for the League Cup Final against Spurs – a match in which Roberto di Matteo’s side defeated Steve McClaren’s young side 3-1 to win the competition.
Salah had impressed with Chelsea on several occasions, but never once went on to prove himself as the player Guardiola thought he was. To his credit, despite facing fierce competition, Salah flourished at Liverpool. In the last 11 months since joining the club, he has scored 41 goals in all competitions and is only behind Harry Kane in the race for the Golden Boot this season.
One could argue that Salah was a victim of his own impact in some of his older international friendlies and that his even-keeled nature has always made it difficult for him to gel with his England teammates. Certainly, it’s hard to see where Salah would have developed as a footballer had he never moved from Chelsea to Liverpool and it’s difficult to imagine that if he had stayed, Salah would have become one of the better defenders in the Premier League.
At Chelsea, Salah was a running train, one whose every run was endearing and who’d occasionally gift the ball to John Terry or Frank Lampard. But the swift deterioration in Salah’s ability as a player for Chelsea saw them clamber to sign him on loan and then making the permanent move in January 2016. When it came to Liverpool’s first team, many doubted whether Salah could join a side that had consistently excelled since the creation of the Premier League and where manager Jurgen Klopp had spent the latter part of his tenure breaking down barriers that had stood in the way of winning titles in his homeland.
Salah found success in winning the Europa League and though he subsequently failed to replicate that kind of output for Liverpool in the Champions League last season, Salah has been the man of the moment all season. And, having said all of that, we could get to see Salah’s versatility even more clearly when his exploits at Anfield come up against those of Messi, Ronaldo and co. next summer. With Salah off the plane and far more of his peers out of the equation, there’s a strong case to be made that he is currently the most underrated player in the Premier League.
Read the full article at The Times.