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Mo Salah’s road to greatness: Is the Ballon d’Or coming to Africa soon?

Tuesday 20th March 2018

Mohammed Salah has been phenomenal for Liverpool. The Egyptian has surprised perhaps even himself with stellar performances that have seen him linked with a move to Spanish giants Real Madrid. But the signs have been there all along. Salah has been Egypt’s best player by far for quite some time now.

At club level, the former Basel and Chelsea player was one to watch from the very beginning. The Egyptian has gone from an unknown quantity to one of the best football players in the world in just over five years. From humble beginnings at El Mokawloon back in his homeland, Salah moved to Basel in 2012. He won the Swiss Super League in his very first season with the Swiss side. He was also named the CAF Most Promising African Talent of the Year 2012. In the following year, he received the SAFP Golden Player award for being the best player in the Swiss Super League. If all these do not convince a top European club in any country that this is a player to have for the future I wonder what else will?  Chelsea swooped for the promising star making him the first Egyptian ever to play for the North London club.

Chelsea was forced to do something about Salah after he played a leading role in ousting the club out of the Champions League. Salah scored the equalizer to give Basel a 2-1 win over Chelsea in the first leg of the group stage match between the two clubs. He then scored the only goal in a 1-0 home win over Chelsea in the return leg thereby dumping the English side out of the competition. Chelsea decided to acquire their tormentor who had shone like a million stars those nights.

Having come to Chelsea on the back of excellent performances for both club and country, one would have expected his manager to nurture him for greater success. Fortunately or unfortunately for Salah, his manager was Jose Mourinho. The self-proclaimed Special One seemed unable to spot the talent under his nose. This is not surprising as we have also seen in the case with Kevin De Bruyne. Not even Salah’s achievements to that point were good enough clues for the Portuguese.

Salah joined Chelsea in January 2014 and made his Premier League debut in February. By March he had started scoring goals for his new club. His debut goal was against Arsenal in a London Derby, proving he was also a player for the big occasion. But here’s the stunner: Salah was sent on loan to Fiorentina, who had an option to buy clause inserted in the deal. This was despite the fact that the Portuguese stated at the end of the season that Salah deserved a winner’s medal for his contributions to the team. Why am I not surprised?!

Salah would later refuse to stay on at Fiorentina after the Italian club moved to make his loan permanent. He opted to move to Roma instead. He won the Player of the Season award at the end of the season there. He finished the season as Roma’s top scorer with 15 goals and six assists in all competitions. Liverpool came calling. The club paid a club record €42m for a player Chelsea sold to Roma for €15m in just over a year. He also made history as the first Egyptian to play for Liverpool.

He wasted no time in assuring the club of his quality as he scored on his debut just as he had done for Fiorentina. He has gone on to create and break records for Liverpool, becoming the first player in the club history to score 36 goals in his debut season. He also leads the scoring charts in Europe’s top five leagues with 28 goals, four ahead of nearest rival Lionel Messi. It’s no surprise then that he is being rumoured to be on Real Madrid’s wish list. His recent four goals in a single match also put him in a special group of only four Liverpool players to have ever scored four goals in a single match. The others are Robbie Fowler, Michael Owen, and Luis Suarez. He is also the fourth African player to score more than 20 goals in a single season.

It’s no surprise the Egyptian won both the BBC and African Footballer of the Year titles for 2017. But at just 25 years old, this may just be the beginning for Salah. Like Liverpool great Steven Gerrard put it recently: “we are witnessing the start of greatness.” If not at Liverpool, a move to Real Madrid or another top side and he may just bring the Ballon d’Or to Africa for only the second time in history.

Emmanuel Odey

Emmanuel is a freelance journalist who lives and breathes the round leather game. He is a contributor on several platforms. You can follow him on Twitter for more.

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