Jon Obi Mikel left in shock by complete transformation of £34m Liverpool player
Photo by Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Offside via Getty Images

Jon Obi Mikel left in shock by complete transformation of £34m Liverpool player

Former Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel has claimed that he didn’t expect Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah to become a top player.

Mikel and Salah were Chelsea teammates once upon a time, with Mo lasting just one year in the first team at Stamford Bridge. And looking back on that time for Dubai Eye, Mikel admitted to being stunned by Salah’s rise at Liverpool.

“I think [Salah] was having a bad game and then obviously Mourinho came in and ripped into him, massively ripped into him,” recalled the Nigerian. Asked whether he believed Salah would become a star, Mikel was in doubt – he would not.

“No. He was in tears, and what happened is [Mourinho] didn’t let him back onto the pitch in the second half. He took him off. It would have been easy to just take him off and say “you’re not playing well, off you go, sit down, you’re not going back onto the pitch.” But he ripped into him and took him off.”

Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images

“When I look at the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Mo Salah, what they’ve become now, the best players in the world, it’s amazing to see. They’ve become physically stronger, they’ve become faster. I don’t know what happened to them!”

There’s no question that Mo’s time at Chelsea helped to foster a determination in him to come back stronger. He certainly did that.

In some ways, Salah’s rejection at Chelsea was the best thing that could have happened to his career. Without it, perhaps the Egyptian wouldn’t have had quite the same unrelenting desire to be the absolute best.

Upon his return to the Premier League with Liverpool in 2017, it was absolutely clear that he had a point to prove. And prove it he did. His transfer fee to Roma is still perhaps the best £34m the Reds will ever spend.

Photo by Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Offside via Getty Images

But at the time of Mikel’s story, maybe Salah did just need a bit of tough love. It’s easy to point the finger at Mourinho in particular, but the then 21-year-old obviously wasn’t quite up to standard.

Mourinho isn’t the most subtle manager in the world and he has a tendency to not hold back in terms of digging players out. Unlike some managers though, the Portuguese doesn’t appear to only target those who he knows can take it. He’ll go for anyone, no matter they’re disposition.

In some players, the kind of incident Mikel describes above could crush them. Coupled with being farmed out on loan, it could really have destroyed Mo’s confidence.

Thankfully, our Egyptian King is made of stern stuff. He took that disappointment and put it into being the best he could be for Fiorentina, Roma and Liverpool. The talent was always there, he just needed a little push to find it.

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