You know a footballer is making waves with his scintillating performances when fans and the media decide that he’s ‘the Messi of [insert country here]’.
Sure enough, Mohamed Salah – with his dribbling skills, lightning speed and goals galore – has become known as ‘the Messi of Egypt’.
After his (bargain) £34.3m summer move from Roma, the 25-year-old forward has become the fastest-ever Liverpool player to reach 20 goals in the Premier League.
Salah was able to achieve it in 25 games compared to Fernando Torres and Daniel Sturridge, who both did it in 27. He’s currently on 28 goals.
How Chelsea must be kicking themselves that they didn’t persevere with him, after spending £11m to sign him from Basel in 2014.
Salah is also a star on the international scene, where his heroic two-goal display against Congo back in October secured Egypt’s qualification for the 2018 World Cup in Russia – their first appearance on football’s biggest stage since 1990.
His status as a hero in his homeland is helped by the fact that Salah cuts a modest and humble figure who cares about the plight of those less fortunate.
‘With the Premier League televised around the world, Salah is fast becoming his nation’s most famous son’
He once donated 30,000 euros to the Veteran Association of Egyptian Players. After his match-winning performance against Congo, he was offered a villa by a rich businessman but declined and asked that the money instead go to help improve living standards in his hometown of Nagrig.
Egyptian football expert Marwan Saeed said: “He is a very down to earth, a quiet footballer and person. He barely interacts with the media in Egypt or abroad.
“He uses social media to a moderate level. He doesn’t like to talk much and that is a good thing as we see many stars saying things they shouldn’t on TV or posting things they shouldn’t.”
His exquisite skills on the field of play, and down-to-earth demeanour away from it, have made him an iconic figure and a source of pride for all Egyptians.
And with the Premier League televised around the world, Salah – having notched 36 goals in 41 appearances for Liverpool – is fast becoming his nation’s most famous son.
Salah steps up
Fans at Anfield feared the worst when favourite Phillipe Coutinho finally departed for Barcelona for £142m in the January transfer window.
But the Brazilian’s exit created an opportunity for Salah – who was signed for £39m in the summer of 2017 from Roma – and he has grabbed it with both hands.
Doubts might have lingered in the minds some Liverpool supporters, given he was shown the door at Chelsea in 2016 after just two goals in 13 appearances.
Jose Mourinho had recruited Salah after the Egyptian impressed against the Blues in the Champions League.
But he failed to shine at Stamford Bridge and after a year was loaned out, first to Fiorentina and then to Roma, who signed him permanently in August 2016.
Mourinho’s rigid tactical approach failed to get the best out of the free-spirited Salah, but he blossomed again in Italy, and Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp had no qualms about bringing him back to England.
Golden Shoe race
The German’s decision has been more than justified, and further proof of that was delivered as Salah scored four times in Liverpool’s recent 5-0 win over Watford.
His latest haul put him in the lead for the European Golden Shoe award, and took his goal tally in the Premier League to 28 in 30 appearances.
It put the Egyptian on 56 points, six ahead of favourite Lionel Messi, who scored twice against Athletic Bilbao.
If Salah goes on to win the Golden Shoe he will be the first Premier League player to win it outright, since Cristiano Ronaldo, who scored 31 goals in 2007-08 to help Manchester United claim the title.
Can Liverpool keep Salah?
With big performances week in week out, fans and pundits alike are already asking if Liverpool can hold on to Salah, as his exploits spark interest from the likes of Real Madrid.
Even though the player himself looks to have settled at Anfield, no-one knows where a massive offer for him might lead.
At least with Coutinho, Liverpool got five years of service, 142 appearances, 41 goals and numerous assists before the lure of Barca became too strong.
Salah is already well on his way to eclipsing those attacking stats, and may yet help Liverpool to Champions League success this season – if they can first get past Manchester City in the quarter-finals.
If he also stars for Egypt in Russia this summer, expect the club’s resolve to keep him at Anfield to be severely tested…