'Salah hasn't scored for a few games but so what?' - Smiling Smicer says Liverpool ace will come good again

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The Egyptian has gone seven games without a goal - the worst run of his Reds career - but Vladimir Smicer tells Goal there's no cause for concern

Vladimir Smicer is smiling. He smiles a lot, this former star.

“It’s the best way to be,” he tells Goal, settling in for an exclusive chat on a fifth-floor balcony overlooking the Liverpool skyline.

“I have a good life and lots to smile about. And just look at that view!”

Smicer’s return to Merseyside is a flying one.

He is here to play for a Liverpool Legends team against AC Milan at Anfield, where more than 54,000 supporters will turn up to watch Steven Gerrard settle a contest featuring the likes of Kaka, Robbie Fowler, Andrea Pirlo, Jamie Carragher and Paolo Maldini. The game will raise more than £1 million for the LFC Foundation.

Milan, of course, were the defining opponents of Smicer’s six-year stay at Liverpool. They were the last opponents in fact, the team sensationally slain by the Reds in Istanbul in the Champions League final of 2005.

Smicer scored in that game, of course, as Liverpool fought back from 3-0 down. His last kick for the club turned out to be the winning penalty in the shootout which followed.

“Not bad, eh?” he smiles. “I would never be able to forget that night. I always get people coming up to me, thanking me for 2005, talking to me about Istanbul. I wouldn’t change that, ever.”

Smicer turned 32 the day before that Champions League triumph, and would leave Liverpool immediately after it.

He admits that later, when struggling for form and fitness with Bordeaux, he would spend nights reliving his greatest night.

“I wanted to remind myself I could do it,” he says. “I needed some positive energy to keep me focused.

“My time at Liverpool was not always perfect, but I always enjoyed it. I loved playing for the club, and I love coming back.”

Vladimir Smicer Liverpool Champions League

Vladimir Smicer Liverpool Champions League

Now 45 and based in Prague, Smicer remains a fanatical supporter of his former club. And he says that if Liverpool can pip Manchester City to the Premier League title, he’ll be back in the city to join in the celebrations.

“I’m a little bit jealous that I can’t be here every day, to be honest!” he says. “If it goes to the last games in the league, and then we have Champions League semi-finals or the final, this place will be incredible.

“I went around the city after we won in 2005, and there were so many people there that day. Can you imagine if they win the Premier League, or both? The city would have to be closed for a week!”

Smicer expects the title race, which resumes this weekend with City at Fulham and Liverpool hosting Tottenham, to go right down to the wire. Liverpool hold the advantage for now, though crucially the champions retain a game in hand.

“The progress has been massive,” Smicer says. “Last year we were 25 points behind, and now we are two ahead. We have shown we can keep pace with a great side.

“I knew before the season started that City would still be very strong, because they didn’t change much. The question was whether we could be as good and as consistent as them. So far, we have been that, but now we have to keep it together.”

If Liverpool are to get over the line, the form of their front three will be key. Sadio Mane’s form of late has been excellent, but fans will hope to see Mohamed Salah’s scoring touch return soon.

The Egyptian, like Mane, has 20 goals for the season but has not found the net in his last seven matches. Concerning?

“Not really,” says Smicer. “People can look at Salah and say he hasn’t scored for a few games but so what?

"We are still winning games, we are top of the league and in the quarter-finals of the Champions League. And we still believe in him.

Vladimir Smicer Mo Salah Liverpool PS

“He will be fine, for sure. People say he is not the same as he was last season, that physically he is short or that he has less energy. But I think that is normal, when you consider the summer he had.

“He had the injury in the Champions League final, then he was battling back to be ready for the World Cup, and that took a lot of effort.

"Then, the summer was short and he had less rest than other players. I think that is why in some games he hasn’t had the same energy.

“But still, he’s the second-best scorer in the Premier League, his record for Liverpool is great, and he will be one of the most important players between now and the end of the season, for sure.”

He adds: “But the thing with Liverpool, it is not just a one-man show. If you watch Real Madrid, Ronaldo left and they can’t find a striker. I think if Messi left Barcelona, then they would be struggling.

“You see sometimes Salah is not at his best, but Liverpool are still able to win games. Mane steps up or Firmino. That’s why you have a big squad. I’m not concerned.”

Smicer doesn’t hesitate when asked if this team is better than the one he played in back in 2005.

“Definitely,” he states. “But football is different now to then. That’s why I always say it is unfair to compare teams from different eras.

“They did a study recently where they found that at the World Cup in 1962, players ran around five kilometres a game. Goalkeepers run that these days!

“So, how can you compare Pele or Maradona to Messi? You can’t, it isn’t fair. It was a different game.

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“The only criteria which you can look at and say ‘that tells you who was a great’ is trophies. Forget everything, show me the trophies!

“OK, he was talented, he was good, he was not so good; what did he win? Show me what they did for the club. That’s the real measure.

“And hopefully come May, these Liverpool players will be able to show their trophies off. I would love that.”

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