“Salah announced” –On June 22, 2017, the man, with a beaming smile said to the camera with a wave of his hand. Unkempt beard, bushy hair, the 2017-18 Liverpool jersey. A lot of things looked afresh in the announcement video put out by Liverpool FC on their YouTube channel. Soon after, he got the number 11 jersey previously worn by Firmino. Firmino obliged and happily switched to 9. However, Firmino switching to number 9 only meant that Liverpool wouldn’t be without the services of a proper number 9 for the 2017-18 by the looks of it.
Mohammed Salah had completed his switch back to Premier League. This time, though, to the Merseyside club. Jurgen Klopp’s team wanted a 20-goal a season a player and the board obliged on Salah. The Reds snapped up Salah for £34.3m at a time when 16-year old Vinicius Junior was signed by the Galacticos in the same range and a 20 year old Ousmane Dembele was signed for £135.5m by the bigger Catalan club.
Mohammed Salah did the unthinkable in his first season. Maybe because much wasn’t expected of him. Maybe people downplayed his abilities. Maybe people opined it takes more to succeed in England than just being a speed merchant in the Italian league.
The premier League began in a way typical of the Liverpool Football Club. On August 12, Liverpool were drawn away from home against Watford in their first match. Salah took no home to settle as he managed to net home a chip from Firmino for the 2nd Liverpool goal. The match ended in a 3-3 draw. This gave everyone little indication of the impending havoc that Salah is going to wreak in the Premier league. He subsequently scored in the Champions League qualifier play-off win against Hoffenheim. Things looked much better for the 5 time European Champions as they managed to progress to the Champions League group stage with a 6-3 aggregate win in the play-off round. The camaraderie between Salah, Mane and Bobby Firmino was enviable. Mane was awarded the Premier League Player of the Month for the inaugural month of 2017-18 season. However, it was Salah who was going to walk away with the most number of accolades come the end of the season.
In the month of October, Egypt qualified for the FIFA World Cup 2018 in a dramatic fashion. After the heartbreak of 2014 Qualifiers where they lost 6-1 to Ghana, they came back strongly in a must win match. Playing Congo in a crunch fixture in front of a capacity crowd of 30,000 at a military stadium in the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria, Mohammed Salah struck an injury time penalty to claim the winner for Egypt. Talk about nerves, grit and steel. This man was exceeding expectations one match at a time.
Salah in the English Premier League was only getting started. He would go on to win 3 Player of the month awards and subsequently became the fastest Liverpool player to 10, 20 and also 30 goals. He was breaking records at will, both personal and for the club.
He championed the Merseyside club’s cause in the European scene. Along with Bobby Firmino and Sadio Mane, the trio would go on an assault spree every time they came out on the field. They would defeat the now reigning Premier League champions in the quarterfinals and then get over the line against Roma in the semifinals. Both the ties had eerie similarities. It had an early massacre at Anfield. The Egyptian opened the scoring in both the ties. And there were usual defensive frailties from Liverpool Football club. They, all but, just progressed to further rounds. However, things did not turn out all dreamy in the European competition. As fate would’ve had it, Mohammed Salah would go off injured in the early minutes of the final thanks to a MMA-like pin-to-the-ground from the Real Madrid captain and a few goalkeeping howlers would cost them the title. Salah’s dream season was over. This also meant another thing. This also meant that his World Cup dream was in jeopardy. What was initially feared as a season ending injury turned out to be a lesser scare and Salah would go on to miss only the opening game in Russia. Few weeks later, Egypt would bow out of the world cup with no wins. Salah would score the only 2 goals scored in their campaign.
Life is unfair. Sport is unfair. Football is unfair. People may say. But very few know that, like life, football gives you a second chance. It allows you to go out into the field as an equal, no one superior or no one inferior. Every one equal in their own right. When Salah comes out on the Anfield pitch come August 12 wearing the famous red, he knows that this is just the beginning. For he knows, he can try one more time and aim to be the best he always wanted to be. For he knows, the last time he played there, he made a world record by scoring the most number of goals in a 38-match season. For he know, he is the Pharaoh of Merseyside and he has to give it his all.