Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah has not scored for six games in all competitions but played a part in their FA Cup semi-final victory over Manchester City as Jurgen Klopp’s side continue their quadruple bid
Image: Getty Images)
As he moved through the mixed zone at Wembley, he was asked when he would speak to reporters next. Quick as a flash, and with a warm, teasing smile, he replied: “When we have won all four!”
It was said not as a prediction, but clearly in light-hearted jest. Yet you got the point. He may not be scoring goals at the moment, his exquisite touch in front of goal temporarily deserted him, but this is not a player with a fragile mentality.
The fact that he was able to banter with journalists, tease us gently; make jokes of the quadruple quest rather than feel the weight of it – and the pressure on himself – shows his inner strength. Most players – think Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar or Lionel Messi – in his position would have walked head down, earphones in, refusing to engage. But not Salah. And no wonder.
He is above all a genuine person, and also, for all the ridiculous talk of selfishness, a fine team-mate, who is prepared to work selflessly on behalf of the greater good. Here at Wembley he ran himself into the ground with his work tracking back, and his intelligent running off the ball to constantly engage at least two Manchester City defenders. It may not be headline grabbing stuff, but it is vital.
It allowed space for Sadio Mane to shine. It was Salah’s positioning in cutting off the pass to two defenders from the goalkeeper which allowed his team-mate to pressure Zack Steffan into a mistake. His team-mates appreciate that. Trent Alexander-Arnold, who forms with him perhaps the finest right side partnership in world football, believes the noise around the Egyptian has got to ridiculous levels.
HAVE YOUR SAY! Should Klopp drop Salah? Let us know in the comments section
Alexander-Arnold said: “I think really it’s unfair at the moment, what people are saying. The levels he gets himself too, he’s kind of a victim of his own success. He’s still top goalscorer in the Premier League and he’s only one behind me in terms of assists!! And people are saying he’s having a bad run of form?! He’s nearly top goalscorer in the Champions League as well.
“What he has done for us over the last five seasons has been outstanding. Look, it’s unfair for people to say he is going through a bad patch. We all have belief that he is going to score goals for us. It’s only a matter of time before he puts it in the back of the net again. That’s it.” Maybe it is that complete lack of arrogance which explains Salah’s run at the moment. Most world class strikers would be selfish in the extreme when they go games without goals. But not him.
Even at the end here, he was prepared to play others in, rather than shoot himself from promising positions. It hasn’t clicked at the moment, but imagine when it does. Maybe that quadruple jest won’t look so light-hearted after all.