Jack Hallows explains why the ‘Chelsea reject’ tag should be ignored when it comes to Liverpool FC’s new-boy Mohamed Salah.
Opposition fans love to find any imperfections they can when your club signs a class player with the potential to do some damage and improve the squad. It’s just football fans second nature. Nobody can sit there and appreciate the fact that another team has signed a good player who improves their squad.
For Mohamed Salah, it’s the label of ‘Chelsea reject.’
Fans of rival clubs think it’s hilarious that the Reds have spent £34m+ on a player who ‘couldn’t cut it’ in the Premier League and have summed him up in those two, ridiculous words.
It’s especially rich coming from United fans who signed back their own club’s ‘Serie A reject’ for £89m last summer but hey, Twitter football fans have very short term memories.
Anyways, here’s why they’re wrong.
Salah arrives a new man
The Mohamed Salah that Liverpool previously tried – and failed – to sign back in January of 2014 was a completely different player than the one we’ve just spent £34m on.
At just 21 years of age when joining the Blues, Salah was a young prospect unproven at top level. He had pace and he had potential but to put it simply he was just another young footballer.
With Eden Hazard, Willian and Andre Schurrle all established at the club and ahead of the Egyptian in the pecking order, it’s little wonder as to why he found his first-team opportunities so limited.
The Egyptian managed just 11 first team appearances in his first season at Stamford Bridge, unable to break into a settled unit that boasted a plethora of attacking talents. Add to this a manager who has never been big on developing youth stars and you can see why he opted to leave on loan – and eventually permanently – to the Serie A.
While arguably not of the same quality as the Premier League, the Serie A is still an entertaining, fast-placed league that boasts a handful of teams that can be classed as real quality.
So, to have managed to score 35 league goals and assist a further 22 in two and a half seasons in Italy is no mean feat. The Egyptian’s time at Fiorentina and Roma has seen him mature into a well-rounded, top-level talent who knows his biggest assets – raw pace and a wand of a left foot – and how to use them to devastating effect.
The pacy forward can also boast experience in high-pressure situations and a proven ability of being able to cope when the stakes are high.
The Egyptian impressed in Roma’s Europa League campaign, turning out for the Italian side 6 times, scoring twice and assisting once before they were bested by Lyon in the quarter-finals.
He was also Egypt’s key man in their impressive AFCON campaign in January, managing two goals and two assists in their six games run to the final, including this stunning free kick against Ghana.
An inaccurate representation
Just because a younger, less experienced Salah failed to make an impact under Mourinho back in 2014 doesn’t mean it’s going to happen in his second crack at the Premier League.
You only have to take a look at the other players to have left Chelsea because of an inability to gel with the manager and initial struggles to break into the first team before becoming a key player after securing a move away.
Romelu Lukaku has scored an incredible 68 goals for Everton in 141 Premier League games since leaving Stamford Bridge – including a career best 25 last season – after being given 15 total appearances across two campaigns at the Blues.
The Belgian has been so good that he is said to be Chelsea’s ideal replacement for current goalscorer Diego Costa and the Londoners will have to pay out as much as triple the £28m they sold him for.
Kevin De Bruyne is another who has evolved into one of the best-attacking talents in the Premier League since his return after 18 months of maturing in the Bundesliga at Wolfsburg.
The Belgian has become a creative force at Manchester City and has assisted 31 league goals in 60 games since his return to the Premier League along with 13 goals of his own.
How about current Chelsea first team regular and midfield general Nemanja Matic? Matic initially left the club for Benfica in 2011 after troubles with injury meant a lack of playing time and since returning in 2014 has been an ever-present in the Blues successes, playing 104 of Chelsea’s 114 Premier League games over the last 3 seasons.
Then there are also the likes of Filipe Luis who is Brazil’s second choice left back and has enjoyed Champions League nights with Atletico Madrid, Ryan Bertrand who has fast evolved into one of the Premier League’s best left backs – perhaps the best outside the top six teams – and Juan Cuadrado who has won back to back Serie A titles with Juventus and recently played in the Champions League final against Real Madrid.
The point being, just because a player failed at one club, does not mean it’s going to be a case of same old, same old at another. Especially when the player has matured and improved on the level that Mohamed Salah and the other names listed above all have.
Despite this, there are no guarantees for the Reds that Salah will hit the ground running but that is honestly okay. Most new signings take a good month or so to acclimatise to a new city, a new club and most importantly, a new league. This is why the fact that Klopp managed to get Salah wrapped up before the window has even officially opened is huge.
The Egyptian will have the entirety of July to get used to his new teammates when they reconvene upon Melwood for pre-season on the second of the month and will get plenty of opportunities for match practice with the Reds set to play domestic friendlies, games in Hong Kong, games in Germany and a game in Dublin.
There is no doubting the ability and quality that Salah possesses and if he is afforded enough time and support by the fanbase to get acclimatised and familiar with the club and his new surroundings, there is no reason he won’t start with a bang like a certain Senegalese speedster did last season.
To put it simply, Salah is no ‘Premier League reject.’ He may not have fit into Jose Mourinho’s plans at Stamford Bridge during the Portuguese’s second tenure at the club but in no way, shape, or form, should that be allowed to define the Egyptian as a player.
This time around, he joins a squad and system that suits his explosive style of play and more importantly, will benefit from having him in their starting XI.
Personally, I’m very much looking forward to November 25th when the Reds welcome Chelsea to Anfield for their first clash of the season and I would be very surprised if Salah wasn’t too.
What do you think? Will Salah be a success story on Merseyside? Let us know below!