Salah will use injury injustice to fuel an even more unstoppable season with Liverpool

Comments()
Getty Images
His dream summer has become a nightmare - but Egypt's loss could be Jurgen Klopp's gain next season

It wasn’t supposed to end like this.

After the most remarkable of club campaigns, the World Cup for Mohamed Salah was supposed to be about enjoyment. Enjoyment and excitement.

He’d waited for this, and so had his country. Egypt’s first appearance on the big stage since 1990 was a big deal, and Salah was to be its poster boy. His penalty brought them to Russia, his presence in Hector Cuper’s squad gave them hope. It was his chance, his stage, his time.

Then came Kiev. Then came Sergio Ramos.

Suddenly the best few weeks of his career have become the saddest. Salah had dreamed of glory, headlines and success, instead he has frustration, pain and regret. And it’s not just his shoulder which will be hurting.

From the moment he hit the deck, 26 minutes into Liverpool’s Champions League final, Salah’s perfect season has been anything but. As his side floundered against Real Madrid, their Egyptian King was heading for hospital, his arm in a sling and his tears beamed around the world. Not even Salt Bae and his absurdly-timed selfie requests could take the sting out of that; the biggest game of a player’s career, cut short in an instant.

In truth it is something of a miracle that Salah was able to play any part at all in the World Cup. A month was the initial estimate from Liverpool’s medical staff, and that was a conservative one. Three weeks said the Egyptian FA, desperate to have their main man available. Salah, as is his way, worked relentlessly to give himself a chance.

Credit to him for that – a lot of players wouldn’t have made it – but on Monday he and Egypt bid farewell to Russia 2018 with their final Group A fixture against Saudi Arabia in Volgograd. The Pharaohs, like their opponents, have already been eliminated from the competition, beaten in both of their opening two games.

Salah played in the second having missed the first, even scoring courtesy of a penalty . He did, however, look some way short of the player we have seen and admired for Liverpool this season. He looked, in simple terms, like a player who between May 13 and June 19 had had just 30 minutes of competitive football. A row with the Egyptian FA, which simmered in the background before the tournament and re-emerged last week, will not have helped matters. There were suggestions at one point that Salah would even miss the Saudi Arabia game, heading home early.

He won’t. He will play , and you would not bet against him leaving one final mark on the tournament – the Saudi defence is one of the more accommodating, after all – but this is a sombre end to a wonderful year. It is hard not to feel for him.

Sergey Ignashevich Russia Mohamed Salah Egypt World Cup

Still, what defines a player is not the setbacks he suffers but the manner in which he responds to them, and it is easy to imagine Salah using the heartache of the past month in a positive way going forward. The bad times have hurt, but good things surely lie ahead – for him and for Liverpool.

His team-mates, who know how much he is hurting,  have been a source of real support . Dejan Lovren and Sadio Mane, his two closest allies at Anfield, were in regular contact during his recovery, as was Jurgen Klopp, while both Trent Alexander-Arnold and Simon Mignolet have publicly backed Salah to bounce back from his disappointment. "Your future is bright," Mignolet posted, with typical class, on his Instagram account on Saturday.

Liverpool would never say it – and the club in fairness are hugely supportive of Salah’s international career – but the idea of their star man enjoying an extra few weeks’ rest this summer is not the worst in the world. The 26-year-old has had an arduous 12 months, playing 55 times for club and country – the busiest season of his career. Three weeks with his feet up and his shoulder resting will hurt nobody; especially if he returns to Melwood next month fuelled by a sense of injustice, determined to make amends.

Klopp feels he is on the cusp of something big at Liverpool, that he is building a team (and perhaps more importantly a squad) that can take that next step and win major honours. To do so, Salah will be key. He should have no shortage of motivation next season.

Jurgen Klopp Mohamed Salah Liverpool

Article continues below

He will be challenged, for sure. When you score 44 goals in a single campaign, expectations will be huge. Ramos took it to the extreme in Kiev, but defences will be desperate to avoid the kind of humiliations he dished out last season. There will be specific plans to stop him, there will be rough tactics, and there will be people, fans and media, questioning if he can continue his frankly incredible form.

That’s what the best players do, they do it year on year. They reach a level and they stay there, or even push on. Salah, in fairness, can point to two strong seasons with Roma prior to his wonder-campaign with Liverpool, but it will be interesting to see if his level sustains.

If it does, then the pain of the last few weeks will quickly be forgotten. Nothing drives like anger, and Egypt’s loss could be Liverpool’s gain.

Next article:
Malaysian transfers round-up: Melaka, Pahang and PKNP announce foreign signings
Next article:
Henry worried about Monaco's future more than his own
Next article:
PSG fined €100,000 by LFP for racial profiling potential signings
Next article:
"When Selangor call, you pick up the phone!" - Regan eager to impress at Red Giants
Next article:
'I am getting scared' - Emiliano Sala sent fearful messages to friends while aboard missing plane
Close