Premier League • England

‘Don’t think he’s been playing that well’ – Pundits debate standards of ‘decisive’ Liverpool hero

Mo Salah and Luis Diaz

Mo Salah has struggled for form since returning from the Africa Cup of Nations, according to one pundit – but he agrees with another that his goalscoring record makes it inconsequential.

Salah has been front and centre of Liverpool news recently due to his contract situation. His deal with the club expires in 2023 and there has been little progress over a renewal. On the pitch, meanwhile, he has remained in astonishing form in front of goal.

On Saturday, he scored their 2000th goal in Premier League history with a penalty in a 2-0 win over Brighton. He has been responsible for 115 of those goals since joining the club in 2017.

Talk of his future will rumble on until there is clarity either way. For now, he must continue proving his worth on the pitch. That is exactly what he has been doing.

After the win against Brighton, Peter Crouch hailed Salah as an “absolutely relentless goalscorer”. The former Liverpool striker said there is “no one better at the moment in the Premier League”.

But fellow BT Sport pundit Steve McManaman claimed the Egypt international has in fact been out of form since his return from the Africa Cup of Nations. His nation lost the final to Senegal via a penalty shootout.

Since then, he has scored five goals in nine games for Liverpool. But McManaman thinks he hasn’t been hitting the high standards. Even so, it would not be reasonable to expect that every week.

The pundit said: “Funnily enough I don’t think he’s been playing that well of late, since he’s come back from the African [Cup of] Nations, by his lofty standards.

“I don’t think he was great today, necessarily. But then he goes and takes the penalty and gets a goal.

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“I don’t expect him to be great every game, that’s just not normal. But the fact that there’s five of them; if he has a quiet day, [Luis] Diaz steps up. Diaz has a quiet day, [Sadio] Mane steps up, or [Diogo] Jota or [Roberto] Firmino.

“And that’s where Liverpool are at the moment, which is brilliant, isn’t it? You can pick and choose who you want depending on what game you want. If you’re playing Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup, ‘we’ll play him’, you can leave Mo to the side because him and Sadio Mane did have a busy period in the African Nations.

“But when you’re on the penalty, his goalscoring record is relentless, isn’t it?”

Ferdinand lauds ‘decisive’ Mo Salah

Mohamed Salah celebrates scoring for Liverpool

In agreement with McManaman was Rio Ferdinand. He believes Salah’s minor setbacks do not matter when he contributes so much in terms of numbers.

Ex-Manchester United man Ferdinand picked out his assists record as one overlooked aspect of his game, too.

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He said: “I think with Mo Salah, he can afford not to play well at times because he’s so decisive when he gets that chance. A moment comes up whether it’s an assist or a goal.

“We can talk about the amount of goals he’s got; he’s double figures for assists as well. I think he’s second or third in the charts this season in assists.

“He’s effective in all areas of his game and what he does, because he’s got such a huge reputation based on the amount of goals and consistency he’s had. He draws so many players to him, frees up the other guys. They must love playing with him.

“Mane and Diaz are now getting more one-on-one opportunities because when he gets the ball, people are just magnetised towards him.

“For the Premier League’s sake, I hope Liverpool sign him [to a new contract]. Obviously for other reasons you maybe want Liverpool to not keep him if you’re being selfish. But as a spectacle of the league, he’s a fabulous player and he brings more eyeballs and more excitement to the league.”


Liverpool receive further Salah advice

Crouch also hopes Liverpool keep Salah, but has warned his former club to be careful with their approach.

He said: “If they get held to ransom, they’re not going to break the structure of the whole football club just for one player. I think it can cause other problems.

“I do think they’ve got enough firepower. But listen, you take Mo Salah out of any team in the world, they’re going to suffer. But I think if they get the right price, they potentially have to look at it.

“They’re not going to be held to ransom. The club’s bigger than any player that will ever walk through the door.”

Salah has scored 153 goals from 238 appearances during his time with Liverpool. He reportedly wants to stay, but only if Liverpool up their contract offer.

If not, he will be of interest to many of the elite clubs in European football. Therefore, Liverpool must weigh up the pros and cons of tying him down to a new deal.

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