“Who is better than him? We don’t have to talk about what [Lionel] Messi and [Cristiano] Ronaldo have done for world football and their dominance but, right now, he is the best.” That was Jurgen Klopp’s take on Mohamed Salah last Saturday before Liverpool’s talisman then scored another two goals on Tuesday night.
The Egypt international is earning such praise from his manager and many others not just because of his incredible output – 12 goals and four assists in 11 games mean he’s averaging a direct goal contribution every 60 minutes – but also his sublime overall performances.
Against Atletico Madrid on Tuesday night, Salah became the first Liverpool player ever to score in nine consecutive matches across all competitions and also the club’s highest ever Champions League goalscorer, surpassing Steven Gerrard. He’s on 188 goals and assists in 214 domestic and continental league and cup games for the club.
Yet Liverpool have still allowed his contract talks to fester and he’s into the final 18 months of his deal. As it stands, the Reds face selling Salah this coming summer at a fee below his true value or losing him for free in 2023.
They are of course in talks over a new deal but there has been little movement in recent months. The latest suggestions from the Telegraph are that he wants £400,000 a week to stay and that could prove problematic as Fenway Sports Group, Liverpool’s owners, are indicating they do not want to rip up the current pay structure.
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If they want the best players in the world to play for their team, however, they must pay the going rate. Not doing so may set a dangerous precedent for the future should a player like Diogo Jota achieve similar world-class status.
At the moment Virgil van Dijk, who signed his own new contract only in August, is the club’s highest-paid player on £220,000 a week. Rivals Manchester City have four players above that amount with Kevin De Bruyne on £400,000, Manchester United have seven including summer signings Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane and Chelsea have three.
Given his consistent match-winning contributions since 2017, Salah can very fairly expect a wage of around £350,000 a week to £400,000 a week and would surely get it at most other elite clubs across Europe.
While FSG are said to fear a negative knock-on effect of putting Salah on much bigger wages than his team-mates, Van Dijk and co. can surely look to the fact that having the winger on their side greatly increases their chance of winning more major trophies.
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Liverpool’s owners are also reluctant to pay such structure-shattering wages due to Salah’s age; he turns 30 next summer. A four-year contract on £400,000-a-week wages would represent an £83m outlay were Salah to see it out and leave in 2025, when he’d have just turned 33.
Salah, like the Manchester United forward, looks as though he could do similarly in the future. His array of talents allied with his dedication to maintaining his phenomenal physical shape mean Salah can be this deadly for another four or five years.
And perhaps it is Ronaldo who FSG should look to as they mull over whether or not to cave to Salah’s demands in order to keep him. They surely cannot lose the No 11 if they want to win the Premier League or Champions League again in Klopp’s final two seasons before he departs in 2024.
There are no major signs Salah will suffer the kind of drop-off others like Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang have. His availability is brilliant, he’s in a world-class team under a world-class manager and he has a Ronaldo-like drive that suggests even if his overall performances decline by 2025, he will still find a way to consistently contribute goals and assists.
Ronaldo, at 36, has managed five goals in eight games since his return to United in the summer. In fact, since turning 33 (the age Salah will be when his prospective new Liverpool contract would end) in February 2018, he’s contributed 130 goals and 26 assists in just 158 appearances for Real Madrid, Juventus and United.
Of course, the Portugal international is one of the very best of all time so it’s a challenge for Salah to replicate that. But the level he is operating at, he is currently one of the best in the world, and he has been operating at a world-class level for several seasons before this one too. He will certainly be confident of copying Ronaldo.
It was of course aged 33 in the summer of 2018 that Ronaldo swapped Real Madrid for Juve at the cost of £99million, and FSG ought to bear that in mind if they are grimacing at and mulling over that £83m figure. Who’s to say they couldn’t sell on Salah at a huge price in a few years’ time?
Lewandowski, at 33, for example would command a fee of £50m-plus, while Benzema would fetch a huge fee were any club to try and prise him from Madrid. There are a multitude of reasons to think Salah can still be a highly valuable player, in the financial sense and in terms of his importance to the Liverpool team, in a few years.
And even if he stays, his worth dips and he is not resellable and moves on for nothing in 2025, you’d bet on Salah repaying that £83m in goal contributions and silverware by then regardless.
FSG will be not judging the worth of a new contract off of what Salah is doing now – and it is very difficult to argue Salah does not deserve a salary similar to his peers like De Bruyne and co. – but in the next few years.
But applying the logic that simply because he will be 30 next season therefore his performance will decline year on year from now ignores the phenomenon that he is. They would very likely come to regret letting him leave if they don’t hand him a bumper new deal.