Virgil van Dijk admitted the performance levels of Mohamed Salah may have been negatively affected when Liverpool needed him the most last season.
Salah was once again Liverpool’s top scorer in a campaign that produced two trophies last term. The Egyptian winger bagged 31 goals across all competitions to help the Reds do the domestic cup double.
However, when the season approached crunch time, Salah’s output noticeably dropped off. Indeed, he scored just four times in Liverpool’s final 20 games.
Some speculated the decline in form was due to the sheer volume of matches Salah was asked to play.
On top of his Liverpool commitments, Salah featured seven times for Egypt during AFCON in January-February. Four of those clashes went to extra time.
However, according to Van Dijk, Salah’s contract stand-off may have been the real reason his output fell.
Salah had less than 18 months remaining on his deal during last season’s run-in and little progress was being made over an extension.
Thankfully for Reds fans, a new two-year extension was finally forthcoming in June, though Van Dijk suggested the contract saga had an effect behind the scenes.
“I think he already showed his level already for the last three years,” said the Dutchman (via the Liverpool Echo).
“He’s under the microscope all of the time, he created that himself. He’s such a good player but he shows that consistently all the time in my opinion.
“At the end of the season, from maybe April until the end, there was a lot of talk about the contract and stuff.
“We’re all human beings and maybe that affected him a little bit unfortunately.
“Now everything is sorted, he’s playing with a free mind, he’s happy to be here and I think everyone else is happy too.”
Salah represents Liverpool’s most important deal
Liverpool’s policy this summer has been one of ‘retain and refresh’.
Younger stars have been drafted in, most notably Fabio Carvalho and Darwin Nunez. However, the club also set about extending the stays of several first-team stars.
Joe Gomez has penned fresh terms, though Salah’s new deal represents arguably Liverpool’s most important piece of business this summer.
The Reds simply could not afford to lose both Sadio Mane and Salah at the same time. Of the pair, Salah’s numbers in terms of goals and assists have always been higher too.
Salah is now under contract at Anfield until 2025. His future will once again come under the microscope in the summer of 2024. Though for Jurgen Klopp and the Reds, they can rest assured their forward line will remain potent for at least the next two seasons.