Salah success a sign Serie A is failing - Balbo

EXCLUSIVE: The Argentine insists the Egyptian's flying start in Italian football is not altogether good news

Mohamed Salah’s immediate success in Italy is further proof of Serie A's decline, former Roma and Fiorentina star Abel Balbo has told Goal.

The Egyptian attacker has struck six goals in his first eight appearances in a Fiorentina shirt since joining the club on a six-month loan deal from Chelsea in January, prompting rave reviews across the peninsula.

But as his side prepare to host Roma in an all-Italian Europa League round of 16 first leg clash on Thursday, Balbo has claimed his achievements prove that calcio is lagging behind the world’s best leagues.

“Salah has really shocked me, and his speedy integration is not a great sign for our league. It is a sign that Serie A is a technically poor competition in which players with speed and superior technique immediately make a difference,” Balbo told Goal.

“Congratulations must go to Salah and his coach Vincenzo Montella for the way in which he has been allowed to fit in so well. Florence is a very calm environment and he is doing a great job.

“Salah is the perfect attacker, such great play with the ball at his feet is really taking the team on a level.”

Fiorentina go into the fixture as favourites despite Monday’s 4-0 Serie A loss to Lazio, with the Giallorossi struggling having drawn eight of their last 10 league games.

“On paper, yes Fiorentina are favourites, but in Europe everything changes. It is a different game, over 180 minutes,” Balbo added.

“Sure, Fiorentina are going better psychologically and physically. They beat Juventus in Turin and that great victory will give them a lot of strength, but it doesn’t mean anything as the Roman monster can suddenly wake up. For me they start on an equal footing.”

The 48-year-old Argentine spent a total of seven years over two spells with Roma either side of a one-year stint at Fiorentina, and he finds it difficult to pinpoint exactly why the capital club have suffered such a poor run of form.

“It’s very difficult to make an assessment on the situation at Trigoria. What is obvious is that since December Roma have completely changed their attitude on the field.

“Their play is slow, they never shoot at goal, and they’re really struggling because their opponents have been increasingly strong. It cannot be a coincidence that they have drawn practically every game.”

The first leg of the Europa League tie takes place at 21:05 CET on Thursday at the Artemio Franchi in Florence, with Roma hosting the return fixture seven days later.