Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk believes that speculation over a new contract adversely affected Mohamed Salah's form last season. The Egyptian forward failed to get on the scoresheet in each of the three finals that Liverpool played last season, including the UEFA Champions League title-decider with Real Madrid.
Meanwhile, in the Premier League, Salah scored just once in his last five appearances, a solitary goal against Wolves on the final matchday, with Van Dijk of the opinion that his standards slipped due to the uncertainty surrounding his future.
What did Virgil van Dijk say about Salah's form?
Salah finally silenced the rumours of a potential Anfield exit by signing a new three-year contract in July, and has been a fixture in the squad once again during pre-season.
The 30-year-old looked back to his best as Liverpool beat Manchester City 3-1 to claim their first Community Shield in 16 years at the King Power Stadium on Saturday.
He contributed to all three goals as he created the first, scored the second from the spot, and was the architect of the third which was netted by new signing Darwin Nunez.
Van Dijk was full of praise for Salah after the game, as he insisted his team-mate is now playing with a "free mind" again after a difficult period.
"He’s under the microscope all the time," said the Dutch defender. "He obviously created that himself because he’s such a good player, but he shows that consistency all the time. Towards the end of the season, maybe April onwards, there were a lot of talks with the contract and stuff.
"We are all human beings and I think that affected him a little bit unfortunately. But he still showed a high level of quality. Now everything is sorted, he’s playing with a free mind, he’s happy to be here and I think everyone else is happy too."
Who will Salah be fighting for Golden Boot in 2022-23?
Despite going through a lean patch of form last term, Salah got his hands on the Golden Boot as he finished as the joint highest scorer along with Son Heung-Min on 22 goals.
It was the third time that he has bagged the prestigious individual award, having won it previously in 2017-18, 2018-19.
However, he will have to be at his best again in 2022-23 as he will be rivalled by a few other deadly strikers such as Nunez, Manchester City new boy Erling Haaland, and Tottenham's Harry Kane.