Liverpool remain on tenterhooks that they could lose star man Mo Salah to Al-Ittihad, though a source has given the Merseysiders hope that time is now against the Saudi Arabia side with their transfer window closing at 10pm Thursday night.
The Reds have already seen three stars depart for Saudi Arabia this summer with Roberto Firmino departing as a free agent at the end of his contract and combined £53m funds arriving into the Anfield coffers for midfield stalwarts Fabinho and Jordan Henderson.
However, a potential fourth and final departure to the Saudi Pro-League would have the most serious ramifications if Al-Ittihad get their way.
Indeed, their pursuit of Salah – the biggest footballing name in the Arabic world – has been relentless. From the early seeds of a reported £60m offer, they have raised their bid time and again, culminating in a £150m bid being rejected by Liverpool on last Friday’s UK-based transfer deadline.
Al-Ittihad, however, refuse to lie down. And with Saudi-led headlines claiming Salah wants the move and is ‘already in Jeddah’ to sign on the dotted line, Liverpool have every right to feel nervous. To that end, they are willing to pay Liverpool a downpayment of £170m with achievable add-ons taking the deal to £215m and a new world-record fee.
To add to their concerns, the Saudis are willing to pay Salah eye-watering wages of £2.3m a week, together with a win bonus and a number of commercial deals that could see him earn a staggering £3m a week, or £156m over a year.
To that end, it would be easy to see why Salah is reportedly ‘torn’ over the prospective move.
Time is running out for Al-Ittihad to sign Mo Salah
Thursday morning’s update on the saga claimed Al-Ittihad officials were to hold a crucial and final meeting with Liverpool chiefs to present their official bid for Salah.
However, relief for Liverpool could come in the form of an update from the Daily Telegraph’s Mike McGrath. He claims that, while officials from the Saudi Pro-League side are ready to present their offer to the Reds, there is an acceptance now that time is against them in getting the deal finalised.
“There has been no appetite on Liverpool’s side to engage in what would be a world-record deal,” McGrath explains, and for that reason, “Al-Ittihad believe it is too late to get a deal done before the 10pm deadline.”
Indeed, Reds boss Klopp has made his feelings abundantly clear on where he stands on Salah.
The German has had to contend with numerous questions on the future of the player though his message has always been the same: Salah is, quite simply, not for sale.
Speaking most recently after the 3-0 win over Aston Villa at Anfield, Klopp stated: “Nobody came to me and told me something could happen or whatever. I’m pretty sure I would have got a call but I didn’t.
“And Mo didn’t look for a second like he thought about anything else other than about Aston Villa.
“He has unbelievable numbers but it’s not a surprise that he has the numbers.
“And he had chances on top of that, and involved in creating and setting up and all these kind of things. He’s a world-class player, no doubt about that. I’m really pleased he is in my team.”
Liverpool eyeing three targets amid Salah sale reports
That is not to say, however, that Al-Ittihad will not try again for Salah. And according to numerous reports, they are set to test Liverpool’s resolve again in January if they don’t get a deal done now.
If they keep on knocking, Liverpool will eventually bow to the pressure. Come January, he will have just 18 months left on his deal, which is currently due to expire in summer 2025.
A similar offer then would surely leave the Reds with little choice.
Either way, it seems Liverpool are indeed planning for life after their talismanic star.
He has blasted in an astonishing 188 goals in 308 appearances for Liverpool since a bargain £36.9m switch from Roma in 2017.
As such, replacing that output will be a next to impossible task for Klopp and Co.
Nonetheless, it’s claimed they are now scanning the globe for would-be options.
And according to Liverpool journalist Neil Jones, the Reds have looked at a number of options.
However, he has identified a trio of stars he believes they will go for.
“Life after Salah is something Liverpool, of course, will know they have to prepare for,” Jones told Caught Offside. “Even if they are to resist this latest Saudi assault, you would feel like it would only be a matter of time before it rears its head again, and with Salah having less than two years remaining on his Reds contract, it feels unlikely that he would sign another
“If I look at players Liverpool have liked previously, none jump out now as obvious signings. Bukayo Saka would be virtually impossible to get out of Arsenal, while Son Heung-min’s age makes him a no-go.”
‘World’s best player’ Kvaratskhelia on Liverpool wanted list
“Jarrod Bowen probably isn’t at the level required, whereas the likes of Leroy Sane, Kingsley Coman and Federico Chiesa have all had their ups and downs. Chiesa was definitely someone Liverpool looked at previously.”
Jones, however, thinks it would come down to Napoli’s Khvicha Kvaratskhelia – recently branded the world’s best player – Rafael Leao of AC Milan, or a leftfield option in Brighton’s Evan Ferguson, who is more of a central striker.
Jones added: “If Salah was to leave, I would lean towards Liverpool maybe targeting someone a little different in terms of profile; still quick, still capable of scoring and creating, but maybe not someone who will simply look to take over from Salah as the main goalscorer,” Jones added.
“I love Khvicha Kvaratskhelia at Napoli, Rafa Leao of Milan is a really interesting player, and I’m convinced that Brighton’s Evan Ferguson is bound for the top. Whoever they did sign, however, would have huge boots to fill!”
Whomever Liverpool go for, any potential signing will undoubtedly cost them a new club-record fee. However, armed with the Salah cash, they would have the money at their disposal to land a top-drawer successor to one of the best players of their modern era.