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red mist Liverpool star Mo Salah is best player in the world – so why is he not idolised on the Kop?

Accusations of diving may be reason the Egyptian is not held in same affection as Fowler and Suarez


Undervalued: Mohamed Salah. Photo: PA

Undervalued: Mohamed Salah. Photo: PA

Undervalued: Mohamed Salah. Photo: PA

It was interesting that Jurgen Klopp felt moved to say that had Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo scored the goal that Mohamed Salah struck for Liverpool against Manchester City, with a mastery of tight space and stunning execution, then “the world says yes, because it’s world class”.

It is usually the kind of statement made about a player of a far lower status than Salah, with the implication being that he simply does not get the credit he deserves.

Certainly it sounded like his manager believed that was the case, and not least because we all know that Salah has scored exactly that type of goal in a big game before.

Klopp is right. For whatever reason, Salah has never received the recognition he warrants. When lists are compiled about the best players in the world he only occasionally sneaks into the top 10.

Suddenly, though, it is coming this season.

Although comparisons, normally, are fairly odious there is surely little doubt that on current form – with a tip to Robert Lewandowski and Erling Haaland – Salah is the best player in the world right now.

Not just for his goals, but also for his assists and for the magnificence of his all-round game.

Absolutely Salah has been undervalued and, to an extent, taken for granted up to this point, which, incidentally, and together with Klopp’s words, does not help Liverpool when it comes to trying to keep a financial grip on the bumper new contract that the forward is demanding as the clock ticks on his deal that expires in June 2023.

He has to be signed up.

When Liverpool are flying they are almost unstoppable, as evidenced when winning the Champions League and then the Premier League, scoring freely and destroying opposition.

They are the complete forward unit – with Salah, Sadio Mane and Diogo Jota or Roberto Firmino. So maybe it is because they are such a collective that individual recognition is not always forthcoming.

But even when Liverpool struggled last season, Salah remained metronomic. He still scored 31 goals.

It was a tough campaign and yet he was the one who maintained his levels throughout.

That tells its own impressive story and Liverpool certainly would not have finished third in the Premier League or qualified for the Champions League without him, which would have been disastrous for the club.

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This is Salah’s fifth season with Liverpool. He is 29 and has got better and better. It is being argued that he has reached his peak but, given his physique, the way he looks after himself, his injury record, his work ethic and his determination for self-improvement, is that the case?

Ronaldo’s rate of scoring goals increased dramatically once he hit 30 and Salah has that machine-like appetite.

There is no reason he should slow up and already this season looks like it might be his best ever. He has nine goals in nine games and, like Ronaldo and Messi, the surprise is when he does not score.

His highest return of 44 goals in 2017-’18 could be under threat. Then he averaged a goal every 91.7 minutes. This season it is every 86.7 minutes. Salah could even beat Ian Rush’s record of 47 in a single campaign.

Salah is powering to a whole new level. His overall tally is 134 in 212 games, as well as 46 assists, at an average of 0.63 goals per game. Only Gordon Hodgson, Liverpool’s centre-forward in the 1920s and 1930s, has a better ratio.

Nobody has reached 100 goals for the club quicker and what is as remarkable is the variety as well as the volume of goals. Salah scores all types and does it as a so-called winger.

If he stays, his numbers will challenge the greats, the legends of Liverpool.

And yet is he idolised? Liverpool fans will argue vehemently that they are fully behind the “Egyptian King” and that has not wavered, but he does not receive the same level of affection as Robbie Fowler or the reverence reserved for Luis Suarez or even Fernando Torres at Anfield.

With those players maybe it was also the fact that they were often beacons in poorer teams; shining lights who promised better days.

Salah has quality all around him and also in the dugout with Klopp, who remains Liverpool’s biggest star.

But there may be another factor with Salah – an elephant in the room, if you like, and that is the accusations of diving he has faced over the years.

Mud sticks, unfortunately, and Salah has had plenty thrown at him, with Klopp feeling moved to both gently criticise and vehemently defend him in the past.

While the argument is that it is less of an issue now, the fact is those claims continued even last season in games against City, West Ham, Everton and Leicester.

English football in particular has had a very strong reaction to diving.

For example, in 2006, Chelsea fans did an extraordinary thing. They booed Didier Drogba at Stamford Bridge despite the fact that he scored both goals in a 2-0 win over Manchester City, because he was throwing himself to the turf and then went over easily following a fairly innocuous challenge from Richard Dunne.

Drogba was visibly upset by it.

So is Salah not quite idolised because he also used to go to ground too easily? Quite possibly.

But then that charge is levelled against Messi, against Ronaldo, against Neymar, against Suarez, against Harry Kane.

Gareth Bale faced it constantly before his world-record move to Real Madrid from English shores eight years ago.

Even so, and more than those other players, it does seem to have held back the view of Salah more than others, which not only appears unfair but hopefully outdated.

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