Jurgen Klopp insists Mohamed Salah is ready to go out all guns blazing to try and win a fourth Golden Boot in five seasons as the Liverpool boss also defended his reasons for benchin club-record signing Darwin Nunez at Fulham.
The Egyptian forward saw his form tail off towards the latter half of last season. His return from the African Cup of Nations saw the often prolific Salah score just eight goals in his final 25 games. And those kind of figures are well down on his usual high standards.
That drop in form coincided with Liverpool spurning a golden chance to win the Quadruple. While there was little they could do prevent Man City winning the Premier League, they perhaps were left with plenty of regrets after the Champions League final.
Some felt the doubts over Salah’s future played a part in his form tailing off. Klopp, however, insists that was not the case. And now, armed with a new contract and upon the dawning of a new season, the Reds boss is adamant that he is ready to go again.
Firing a warning to Fulham, Klopp discussed his fired-up forward.
“Everyone talked about it (the contract) and we are humans but I didn’t see it distracting him a lot to be honest,” Klopp said.
“Of course we are all influenced by things around us, we cannot change that. We are not different from other people.
“Mo had one of the most intense seasons ever, with the Africa Cup of Nations and all of our games.
Mohamed Salah ready to fire
“Everyone talks about us playing 63 games and stuff like this, but we had some players who played a tournament in between as well, which is absolutely ridiculous.”
“After a few weeks of holiday, Mo is always full of power and energy and he came back in a good shape,” Klopp added.
“And yes, knowing where he will be, I wouldn’t say the rest of his career because he is a player who can play on for much longer, for the next very important years in his career that gave all of us a boost and him as well.
“It is of course much better than if he would have been out of contract next summer: Mo would have been the same person, I am 100 per cent sure he could have pushed that aside, but you (the media) would not have stopped asking and that is the problem we constantly face.”
Darwin Nunez bench role explained
Salah took his place in the Liverpool line-up to take on Fulham on Saturday lunchtime.
Alongside Luis Diaz and Roberto Firmino, it was club-record signing Darwin Nunez who starts on the bench.
As was the case in last week’s Community Shield, the Reds may well turn to the Uruguayan off the bench.
And explaining his decision to start with him among his substitutes, Klopp explained his thinking to BT Sport.
“Yeah, of course. But we also have to mix it up a little so what kind of options do we have to change.
“With Bobby [Firmino], we have a baller and then the other two boys have the speed. If we put in a third player with speed it’s about the opponent and what they require.
“If we change with the two young boys with Darwin for example, it’s again a good mix. And that’s why we think it would be better to start with Bobby.”
That decision was also backed by BT Sport co-commentator Steve McManaman.
He added: “It’s fine to be honest, they have four or five forwards as options. That stance [bringing Nunez off the bench] has served them well.
“And anyone who saw the Community Shield last week will know it was always likely that Roberto Firmino would start with Nunez on the bench.”