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Is Mohamed Salah the new Lionel Messi?

Mo Salah's talent and form is now in the same category as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo

Mo Salah scored a wonder goal the past weekend against Manchester City.
Mo Salah scored a wonder goal the past weekend against Manchester City. (AP)

It seems like a trick of the mind now that Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah was considered a one-season wonder in 2018. The Egyptian star, who had joined the club at the beginning of the 2017-18 season, had ended up breaking all sorts of records, including the most goals scored by a player in a Premier League season. Salah scored an unbelievable 32 goals in 36 games that season, and another 12 goals in other competitions. The season ended with Salah winning the Golden Boot but suffering heartbreak in the Champions League final. Many wondered then if Liverpool had blown their chance for silverware. After all, Salah surely wouldn’t ever re-capture this sort of form.

The player had other ideas. In the 2018-2019 season, he scored 27 goals, won the Golden Boot again and helped Liverpool become European champions. The season after, he scored 23 goals in all competitions as Liverpool romped to a first league title in 30 years. People kept waiting for Salah to slow down yet he  kept scoring: he netted another 31 goals last season.

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In his fifth season for the Reds, the 29-year-old seems to have found yet another gear, having already scored 9 goals in 9 games. As the world ponders a new era while Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo enter the twilight of their careers, Salah could well be inheriting the crown. Especially if he keeps scoring the kind of Messi-like goals as he did against Manchester City last weekend.

Mo Salah has been a late bloomer, unlike Ronaldo and Messi, who had been ripping up records while they were still teenagers. A winger of great promise, Salah’s failure to break into Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea side eight years ago, seemed to colour people’s perception of the player he was. Blessed with blistering pace, Salah’s finishing was a problem. Even though this improved during his stint in the Serie A, starring as a goal-scoring winger for Fiorentina and Roma, pundits doubted if Salah could make it in the Premier League, or at the Champions League. It should be remembered that Liverpool hired Salah primarily as a creator of goals. Even while he was blitzing through his first season, the sense was that the goals were a bonus.

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No longer. Salah is now the Premier League’s highest scoring African, having overtaken the legendary Didier Drogba’s record. He is also the only player in English football history to score a goal on the opening day of five consecutive seasons. This season, he became the fifth-quickest player to score 100 Premier League goals. Salah is entering the zone where records start falling like ninepins. And given his fitness levels, it isn’t inconceivable that he will continue scoring goals for fun well into his thirties, like Robert Lewandowski, Messi and Ronaldo before him.

This last fact may well result in Liverpool giving him a new and improved deal (Salah’s representatives are holding out for a weekly pay of at least £300,000 a week), despite that running counter to how the Reds normally do business. Salah’s form though, is entering the rarefied zone of the very best, like a certain Argentinian or Portuguese. One season wonder? Not quite.

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