Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah has been hailed as one of the world’s deadliest attackers – but his former coach at Basel, Heiko Vogel, admits he had serious fears the Egyptian would not make it to the top.
Salah has amassed an incredible 74 goals in 109 appearances since signing for Liverpool from Roma in summer 2017, his stock in the world game rising dramatically after scoring 32 goals in 38 appearances during his debut season and then helping Jurgen Klopp’s side to Champions League glory in his second year at the club.
And while the player – quick, a deadly finisher with either foot, and hard-working – always had the attributes to become one of the world’s best, Vogel admits he did doubt if Salah had the mental fortitude to make it to the very top.
In an interview with Goal and SPOX, the German conceded: “He had everything – the speed, the finish, the left foot – and that wasn’t overlooked.
“Still, I would be lying if I said had prophesied such a massive global career for him.
“In fact, I was more sure about others: Toni Kroos or Eden Hazard – I saw them when they were 15 years old. The nice thing is, I met Momo last year and he has not changed at all. That’s outstanding.
“If you knew him… he is not a world star, he has such a gentle character. It was always clear to me that he is an outstanding player, but whether he had the mentality? I didn’t know that exactly. Momo is a gentle killer.”
Salah made his name in the game with Basel and, reflecting on his time with the Swiss club, Vogel admits the player’s opening days were far from plain sailing.
“Gegge (sporting director Georg Heitz) and I told him: ‘Listen, just train as you like – we’ve already made our decision anyway’,” Vogel went on. “Then he trained on the first day; everyone watched the session and we wondered if he might have a twin brother.
“The second day was a bit better, but not good. Gegge and I had already been talking him up for the tiniest things, saying stuff like: ‘did you see that pass?’. And then came the third day. It was then that he destroyed everything, he was really unstoppable.
“[The first two days] he wasn’t nervous. He was confident, but immersed in a new world. He had to acclimate himself in the truest sense of the word. He came to us from hot north Africa. It’s always difficult when you get into an environment where you do not really understand the language.
“[But] I have rarely seen such a dominant appearance in two-on-five [on that third day]. It was absolutely extraordinary. He was so agile, so explosive. If he had the ball on his left foot, it was a goal. But Momo always had an eye for his team-mates as well.
“After that performance everyone knew why we wanted to sign him.”
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