LIVERPOOL — Liverpool had 150 million reasons to offload Mohamed Salah to Saudi Pro League club Al Ittihad in the summer. But, by scoring twice in Saturday’s 2-0 win against Everton, the Egypt international underlined just how important he is for Jurgen Klopp’s team.
Everton, reduced to 10 men before half-time following Ashley Young’s dismissal for two yellow cards — both for fouls on Luis Díaz — fought desperately to emerge from the 243rd Merseyside derby with at least a point. Manager Sean Dyche even replaced two wingers with defenders at half-time to pack his defence in an attempt to frustrate the home side.
But Salah, once again, provided the breakthrough for Liverpool by scoring a 75th-minute penalty after a VAR review identified a handball by Michael Keane. Salah’s second goal, on a breakaway seven minutes into stoppage time, merely confirmed the result. But without his opener, Liverpool might well have thrown away two crucial points in their bid to win the Premier League title.
“Today was not his [Salah’s] best game,” Klopp said. “But you need someone who gets the ball over the line and he was that man again. He will never stop, that’s his nature.”
The 31-year-old has won everything worth winning in the English domestic game since arriving at Liverpool from Roma in 2017, and much of that success has been down to the contribution he has made during his six seasons at the club. He has scored 194 times in all competitions for Liverpool and registered 78 assists, while his two goals against Everton saw him first move level with, and then go past, legends Kenny Dalglish and Steven Gerrard with 105 at Anfield.
Salah now has 11 Premier League goal involvements from nine games already this season — seven goals and four assists — and has scored or assisted in each of past 13 Premier League home games. In six seasons, he has broken the 20-goal mark in the Premier League on four occasions and hit 19 on each of the campaigns when he fell short. He has been the model of consistency for a team that has won every trophy it has competed for in that time.
When Liverpool require a goal, they can usually rely on Salah to find something when it is needed most.
“Great players do [step up when needed],” Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk said after the Everton game. “This season, or towards end of last season, he [Salah] missed a couple of penalties, but to step up and deliver is something we need.”
When Al Ittihad lodged their £150 million offer to sign Salah late in the summer transfer window, it had been the worst-kept secret in football. Liverpool had been bracing themselves for the bid to arrive. Having already raised over £50m from the departures of Jordan Henderson and Fabinho to Al Ettifaq and Al Ittihad, respectively, they knew that the financial boost could enable them to sign one, or even two, world-class players to replace their talisman.
With Salah’s contract due to expire in June 2025, the long-term justification for offloading the player was obvious, but the football reality was that Klopp would find it impossible to replace him this season. It was simply not viable to take on this campaign without their most reliable goal scorer.
Financially, it may turn out to be a decision that Liverpool’s accountants regret, but football still comes first at Anfield and there can be no questioning the club made the right decision to reject Al Ittihad’s offer.
With Salah in the team, Liverpool can beat any opponent, whether that is a 10-man Everton or title favourites Manchester City, against whom Salah has scored 11 times in a Liverpool shirt. Only Manchester United (12) have conceded more goals against Salah than City, another example of Salah’s ability to make a difference in the most important games.
Only City forward Erling Haaland (9) has scored more league goals than Salah this season, but City have shown a greater ability to win when Haaland fails to score than Liverpool have when Salah misses out. That is how important he is.
Liverpool have had world-class players like Salah before — such as Dalglish, Gerrard and Luis Suárez, who possessed that priceless ability to turn a draw or defeat into a win. And with Al Ittihad expected to return with another transfer bid next summer, this could still prove to be Salah’s farewell season at Liverpool.
But while he remains, Klopp’s side have the ability win every game they play and every competition they are in.
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