MICAH RICHARDS: Mohamed Salah is capable of Messi-like moments

MICAH RICHARDS: I saw it first-hand… Mohamed Salah is capable of Messi-like moments and now he’s the world’s best wide forward: He’s irreplaceable and made for Liverpool, so sort out his contract!

  • I witnessed Mohamed Salah’s brilliance at close quarters when at Fiorentina
  • We couldn’t work out why Chelsea would let such a talent go out on loan
  • Salah always wanted to return to the Premier League and prove a point 
  • He’s done that consistently at Liverpool, winning them so many priceless points
  • Egyptian star is Messi-like in so many things he does and is irreplaceable
  • It’s hard to understand why he isn’t appreciated more because he is world class 

Where would Liverpool be without Mo Salah? It’s a question that got me thinking. Everyone talks about the transformative signings of Virgil van Dijk and Alisson Becker were but what about Mo?

He doesn’t just score goals. He scores important ones. Last season, Salah’s goals were worth a massive 17 points to Jurgen Klopp’s men. Had Salah spent the time on the sidelines that van Dijk did last season, Liverpool would not have hosted AC Milan on Wednesday. It’s that simple.

It’s an incredible figure but, being honest, it doesn’t come as a surprise.

Mohamed Salah celebrates his opening weekend goal in Liverpool’s win at Norwich – the Egyptian has an incredible scoring record and remains integral to the Reds’ success

Micah Richards played alongside Salah when the Egyptian was loaned to Fiorentina in 2015

I had the pleasure of playing with Mo for six months in Florence in 2015 and he used to tell me on the afternoons we would go out for coffee of his ambition to be a star for Liverpool. They were the team he always watched.

When he joined Fiorentina on loan from Chelsea, he was frustrated with himself. Things hadn’t worked out at Stamford Bridge but it was always in his mind that he would go back to England to show everyone what he could do.

In those first few weeks in Italy, we spent a lot of time together. We had flats on opposing sides of Ponte Vecchio and he was just the most humble and considerate guy you could wish to meet. But he was always thinking how he could improve, looking for the gains that would transform him.

Mo used to really look after himself; you see this amazing physique that he’s got now but the thing that sticks in my mind was how well he used to eat. It was always salads, he was always careful. He doesn’t drink, of course, because he is Muslim and he lived a very quiet life.

Salah has always kept himself in peak condition and has watched everything he eats 

The Egyptian star whips his shirt off to celebrate scoring against Manchester United in 2020

But during those first few weeks, as much I hit it off with him, I was confused by his situation. From what I saw in training each day, I couldn’t understand how he had not ripped it up for Chelsea. We were all scratching our heads: how could someone of his ability be allowed to leave on loan?

I’m not making a comparison with Lionel Messi but he was doing things that were Messi-like. Football is littered with stories of players who are brilliant in training but don’t do it on match day but Mo – from the evidence I had – was not like that.

The game that sealed it for me with him was a Coppa Italia tie against Juventus in Turin. Juventus hadn’t lost at home for 47 matches, they were outstanding and would go on to contest the Champions League final later that spring.

On this particular night, however, Mo ran them ragged. His first goal was one I will never forget. I remember him picking the ball up inside our half and all that skill, speed and power he had was used to devastating effect. He ran 70 yards, beat three players and then fired in an unstoppable shot.

Salah kisses the European Cup after Liverpool’s Champions League triumph in 2019

Jurgen Klopp’s side followed that up by ending their long wait for the English title in 2020

We won 2-1 – Mo scored the second, too – and, from that point, his life in Florence changed. He was a hero, with crowds waiting in the square outside his apartment every day. 

He went to Roma after his brief spell with us and he eventually joined Liverpool, I knew they had got a £36million bargain.

For some reason, however, I’m still not too sure he gets the credit he is due. Is it because he plays international football for Egypt, so we don’t see all their games on TV? Is it because he rarely gives interviews and keeps himself out of the headlines?

I can’t see this any clearer: Mo is the best wide forward in the world. 

He is absolutely outstanding, he’s enhanced the role that Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery made their own with a goal record that puts many of the top No 9s in Europe in the shade.

A couple of years ago, I heard it suggested that Liverpool should cash in on Mo and keep Sadio Mane instead. Wow! I couldn’t believe what I was hearing and I think the madness of that argument was proven by the statistic I provided at the start of this column.

Salah is adored by the Liverpool fans and has scored four times already this season

The Egyptian star celebrates during Liverpool’s 3-2 win over AC Milan on Wednesday night

I’ll say it again: 17 points last year – the difference between being involved in the glamour games or watching them unfold from a distance. It really is mind-blowing… and here’s another one. His first season at Anfield, 2017-18. His goals were worth 16 points.

Without that, Liverpool aren’t in the Champions League. Without Mo, Liverpool aren’t in the title race this season. Quite simply, he is irreplaceable, the man for the big occasion and I hope the uncertainty around his contract is sorted out quickly.

For what he brings to a team, there are only a few clubs who could afford him. There is no point him going to Barcelona – who have huge financial issues anyway – and Real Madrid seem intent on completing a deal for Kylian Mbappe, so that is another option gone.

Nobody in England will be able to buy him and Paris Saint-Germain is out of the equation for the moment, so that leaves him where he is. 

And what is wrong with that? Nothing. Liverpool were made for Mo and Mo was made for Liverpool. Together they can be an unstoppable force.

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