Premier League: Liverpool not as afraid of a Salah departure as they once were

As contrary reports on Mohamed Salah status at Liverpool emerge, John Roycroft points out that a Salah departure is not as feared at Liverpool as it once was 
Premier League: Liverpool not as afraid of a Salah departure as they once were

Liverpool's Mohamed Salah battles with Benfica’s Goncalo Ramos (left) and Alex Grimaldo (right) during the UEFA Champions League quarter-final, second leg match at Anfield. Picture: PA Photo

ONE of the more infuriating things about sports coverage and Premier League soccer, in particular, is the amount of speculation involved in every part of the game.

Take this week alone, there was an 'insightful' report, divulged to a usually reliable media source, stating that Mohamed Salah is definitely ready to sign a new contract to stay at Liverpool. A day later, another report, from 'someone in the know' believed that Salah was now ready to move to an Iberian alternative as his contract negotiations had collapsed.

Whatever the true status of the negotiations, the vast majority of Liverpool's fans desperately want the Egyptian striker to stay at Anfield, while more than a few defenders across the league would not mind seeing the Liverpool frontman enjoy some quality time away in Spain.

While Salah has been the runaway best striker this season, leading the golden boot for most goals, (also ahead in assists from play, shots on target and most chances), many will have noticed that he has not been at his usual exciting best since returning from the African Cup of Nations in January.

He has scored five goals since Christmas but only one has come from play. Almost a famine for someone who scores as freely as Salah does.

For the last few months, there was no denying that Salah has not been his usual exuberant and happy self in front of goal. Some fear that the contract negotiations are starting to affect his game. Others put it down to it being a long season, complicated by international duties (and disappointment) with Egypt, taking its toll as we come to the end of the season now.

Egypt's forward Mohamed Salah in action against Nigeria in the Group D Africa Cup of Nations. Salah returned a changed player from the championships. Picture: DANIEL BELOUMOU OLOMO/AFP via Getty Images)
Egypt's forward Mohamed Salah in action against Nigeria in the Group D Africa Cup of Nations. Salah returned a changed player from the championships. Picture: DANIEL BELOUMOU OLOMO/AFP via Getty Images)

Most players in his situation usually bust a gut to play their best football amid new contract negotiations. Nothing says 'I'm worth keeping' like showing the manager and the board just what they might miss if they dared let you go. And up to Christmas, he was doing that every game. Not a match went by when you didn't shake your head in amazement at his skill.

Every match you left with the conclusion that Liverpool would be mad not to give him everything he wants and a cherry on top for good measure. But recently, he has not looked as lethal on the ball as he was for the first part of the season. He has gone six straight matches without a goal and the last goal was from the spot against Brighton back on March 12. 

Now that's not to say he hasn't been contributing. He was brilliant in the second half against Man City last Sunday, providing an exquisite assist for Sadio Mané's second-half equalizer. While that was great, you still need to see Salah at the other end of the pass, putting the chance in the back of the net.

Liverpool's Diogo Jota celebrates scoring their side's first goal of the game during the Premier League match at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester. Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Wire.
Liverpool's Diogo Jota celebrates scoring their side's first goal of the game during the Premier League match at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester. Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Wire.

The thing is, while Salah is a unique talent and Liverpool are always better with him on the field, their dependence on the Egyptian is not as crucial as it was a couple of years ago, even more so since Christmas.

The arrival of Diogo Jota and most recent Luis Diaz, after Christmas, means Liverpool's reliance on Salah has somewhat changed.

Salah can look at the list of Liverpool attackers, including Diaz and Jota, but also, Mané, Firmino, Origi and Minamino and not feel as confident as he once must have been that Liverpool are so reliant on him to give him anything he wants in the contract talks.

Liverpool's 'Moneyball' policy of not paying over the odds for a player over 30 seems ridiculous concerning a player like Mohamed Salah, as he keeps himself so well and has been almost entirely, and amazingly, been injury-free his entire career. But there is no denying that the club has played the negotiations perfectly if they are trying to show Salah that they are prepared to find new talent, for half the price, should he decide to walk away.

Liverpool's Luis Diaz (right) scores their side's third goal of the game during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final first leg match at the Estadio da Luz, Lisbon. Picture: Adam Davy/PA Wire.
Liverpool's Luis Diaz (right) scores their side's third goal of the game during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final first leg match at the Estadio da Luz, Lisbon. Picture: Adam Davy/PA Wire.

It's hard to imagine Salah leaving, his time at Liverpool has been the making of him, as an international star. A legacy as playing god at Anfield is something to hold on to and not to be trivially thrown away just to make more money at a cash-rich club that cares little for his past. A lesson Fernando Torres learned when his move to Chelsea ended a terrific legacy on Merseyside for so many fans.

It's a tough decision for Salah, he deserves the money the best players in the world are claiming. But leaving Liverpool may see him lose the lightning in the bottle that made him so great in the first place.

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