Tag Archives: Lionel Messi

Mo Salah Liverpool shirt

Liverpool reaps the dividends as Salah’s star continues to rise

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.

Egypt’s icon

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…

Tarnished lustre of the Ballon d’Or

The usual names adorn this year’s Ballon d’Or shortlist.

A salad of supremely gifted attacking players from Europe’s top leagues, with regulars such as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in contention.

The ceremony is on January 9th, but can anybody really say that they are looking forward to it?

Every year, the event receives a big billing from pundits, players and fans. It almost seems like an excuse to glamorise and draw even more attention to the sport. Attention which, by and large, doesn’t focus on the collective beauty of football, but rather on its individualistic and commercial value.

“Behind every significant footballer is a web of capitalist structures, from PR spokespeople to advertising companies”

Arsene Wenger rightly condemned the accolade last year for its tendency to “encourage selfishness”.

The award unashamedly prides itself on earmarking individual excellence. It appears to ignore the sport’s intrinsic collective spirit. The Ballon d’Or demands that great players think solely about themselves, their achievements and how they improve a team, rather than how their talent is extracted and nourished by team-mates.

This development is depressingly symbolic of contemporary western society. Thanks to neo-liberal capitalism and the withering away of our formerly Christian values, the emergence of ‘selfism’ has been ushered in to replace historical collectivist preferences.

This societal change is reflected in the continuing prominence of the Ballon d’Or. Football has not been able, or sought, to shelter itself from these changes.

Capitalist structures

Take the ever-growing commercialisation of sport. How fervent do we imagine Puma, Nike or Adidas’s interests are in the shortlisting and eventual winner of the Ballon d’Or?

When Adidas awarded Messi with the Golden Ball at the last World Cup, he looked like he had been handed a dead baby. He knew he didn’t deserve the honour, but Adidas were very keen on their baby soaking up the plaudits. The merit was shared between the player and the brand.

“The Ballon dOr is also consistent in its disregard for certain kinds of players”

Behind every significant footballer is a web of capitalist structures, from PR spokespeople to advertising companies.

The appeal radiated by the Ballon dOr, therefore, is now shared by the corporate visionaries who help to promote and brand ‘world footballers’.

This cannot be considered a healthy presentation of our sport.

Sure, the world of promotion hasn’t escaped team structures either: the major clubs receive huge financial incentives to display sponsors on their shirts and stadia. But at least it’s a celebration of team, unity and partnership, rather than a spotlight on an individual.

Disproportionate acclaim

The Ballon dOr is also consistent in its disregard for certain kinds of players.

Players of bloated goal tallies or attacking flair – as opposed to dominating centrebacks and title-winning goalkeepers – are in receipt of disproportionate acclaim.

“The household names will be back once more, posturing in their finery and bathing themselves in glory”

This should make football fans think about why the defensive side of the game, or the art of not scoring, is so often overlooked and underappreciated.

In the history of the Ballon dOr, only three winners were defenders: Franz Beckenbauer in both 1972 and 1976, Mathias Sammer in 1996 and Fabio Cannavaro ten years later, after leading Italy to World Cup glory.

The story of goalkeepers is even more dire. Only Lev Yashin, a Soviet great, managed to win the Ballon d’Or (back in 1963) from between the sticks, and we seem a long way from presenting the award to a goalkeeper once more.

Bias

It is easy to associate the goalscorers and headline-grabbers as being the game’s greats, but too often we overlook those who do the dirty work.

The holding players, the ferocious fullbacks and centrebacks who lead both on and off the pitch are worthy of mention. The Ballon dOr, though, isn’t so interested in them.

Perhaps those at the heart of selection and nomination have an ideological bias that they cannot seem to work past, or perhaps the art of defending has indeed been forgotten.

Either way, the Ballon dOr will return to our screens in just a couple of months’ time.

The household names will be back once more, posturing in their finery and bathing themselves in glory that cannot be attributed entirely to them.

How anybody can stomach it is beyond me.

Feature image courtesy of Carlos Torres via Flikr Creative Commons.