Too soon to compare Mohamed Salah with Lionel Messi, Liverpool legend Luis Garcia says

Mohamed Salah's success at Liverpool has seen him talked about in the same breath as Barcelona star Lionel Messi.
Updated 25 April 2018
0

Too soon to compare Mohamed Salah with Lionel Messi, Liverpool legend Luis Garcia says

  • Star man Salah has scored 41 goals in all competitions for Liverpool this season.
  • Luis Garcia claims the Egyptian ace still has work to do to be on a par with Messi and Ronaldo

LOS ANGELES: Pretenders to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo’s dual throne have tried and failed to unseat the pair from world football’s high altar over the last 15 years.
The likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thierry Henry, Gareth Bale and Neymar have all approached the foot of the mountain, yet none have been able to consistently reach the staggeringly high standards set by the two El Clasico rivals.
Mohamed Salah’s goal-laden maiden season at Anfield has inevitably prompted debate over whether the Egyptian can unseat Messi and Ronaldo, or, given the age discrepancies, ultimately succeed the pair as football’s prime performer.
It is a water cooler debate that extends far beyond Anfield, the Nou Camp or the Bernabeu.
But as a regular in the stands of former clubs Liverpool and Barcelona, Champions League winner Luis Garcia is well-placed to make a judgment on whether Salah can rival Messi’s genius.
“There’s been a lot of talk comparing the two because Salah has scored so many goals,” Garcia told Arab News.
“But I think it’s too early. I’m sure Salah is happy to be compared to Messi, but on the other side of it, you’re putting a lot of pressure on him.
“Salah has done well for one season, whereas Messi has been doing it for almost 15 years and has scored more than 500 goals.
“Salah is on a fantastic wave, but we have to give him time. I can’t wait to see if he’s even better next season.”
As a former right winger himself though, Garcia admits he has been staggered by Salah becoming only the third player in Liverpool’s decorated history to have reached the landmark of 40 goals in all competitions in a solitary season.
It could get even better for the Arab Contractors’ youth product too.
Liverpool’s Champions League semifinal first leg against AS Roma on Tuesday is the first of at least five remaining games this season for Jurgen Klopp’s side. Salah needs seven goals from that run to reach the highest tally ever scored by a Reds player in a single campaign. The current record of 47 has stood for more than 30 years after being set by Ian Rush in 1983-84.
Garcia said: “Records are there to be broken, but you wouldn’t expect a player on the right wing to be scoring that many.
“We knew he was a very good player, but seeing what he’s done throughout the whole season has been incredible.
“When you’re in that position on the right wing, you’ll usually have periods when you don’t score many goals, but every single game he’s been there.”
Garcia’s former clubs could have been going head-to-head on Tuesday, yet Roma’s shock second-leg comeback in their quarterfinal win over Barcelona handed the Serie A outfit the chance to earn a spot in May’s Champions League final in Kiev.
With heavyweights Real Madrid and Bayern Munich in the other semifinal, Garcia believes Liverpool got the best of the draw, but after seeing the way Roma performed in coming back from 4-1 down against Barca, he is under no illusions about the danger posed to Klopp’s side.
“Right now, Liverpool have got fantastic momentum and you have to take that into consideration,” said the former Spanish international.
“When you see Bayern and Real Madrid in the other semifinal, Liverpool will be quite happy that they were drawn against Roma.
“But I was surprised and impressed by the way that Roma played against Barcelona.”
If Liverpool need any extra motivation at Anfield, they only need to look back 13 years to the rich memories that Champions League success can bring.
Garcia was part of Rafa Benitez’s side who produced the ‘Miracle of Istanbul’ after overcoming a 3-0 half-time deficit to beat AC Milan in arguably the most famous Champions League final in the competition’s history.
“That final changed my life,” added Garcia, speaking in Los Angeles at the launch event for this summer’s International Champions Cup pre-season tournament.
“It was the highlight of my career and it was so special with the way the game went. It linked me to Liverpool for the rest of my life.
“It’s all I ever talk about when I go back to Anfield, and I love talking about it!
“It’s been the main trophy from the last 15 years, but this year could be another massive year for the club.”


Uruguay’s Indian cricketers searching for a permanent home

Updated 16 February 2019
0

Uruguay’s Indian cricketers searching for a permanent home

  • Descendants of Indian immigrants carry banner for Uruguay in the cricket field

MONTEVIDEO: Every Sunday, close to a statue of Indian independence hero Mahatma Gandhi, a group of Indian ex-pats take over a patch of land in Uruguay’s capital Montevideo for a game of cricket.
Tucked in between the Rio de la Plata estuary and the long promenade known as the “rambla” that stretches from one side of Montevideo to the other, Avijit Mukherjee prepares to bat, watched eagerly by his Uruguayan girlfriend.
“I played in my country but with a lot more infrastructure,” said the 28-year-old Mukherjee, whose girlfriend Veronica is the main reason he has stayed in Uruguay.
“There are stadiums and many places to play in India, whereas here we only have one.”
Although cricket was first played in Montevideo by British expat workers even before the foundation of the independent republic in 1828, its practice died out in the 1980s.
But following an influx of Indian immigrants to Uruguay at the turn of the century, cricket steadily returned to Montevideo.
First there were one-off matches. Then, the players organized their own league and even set up a Uruguayan national team.
At the end of last year, Uruguay, whose team was made up almost entirely of Indian expats, finished second in the South American championships in Colombia.
While the cricketers are now established on their little patch of land, their initial appearance was not entirely welcomed by local footballers playing on an adjacent pitch.
“We came like spiders and rebuked them,” recalls Daniel Mosco, a local resident who has been playing football in that field for 30 years.
The issue was quickly resolved, though, and the cricketers agreed to start playing only once the football matches had finished.
With no fixed cricket markings, players use flour to draw white lines.
Now, bat can be heard crashing against ball until sunset.
Even though they’ve been here for years, the shouts of “howzat!” and “wait on” still elicit glances from locals making their way along the rambla.
They make a curious spectacle for people little accustomed with either cricket or India.
Mosco, for one, was surprised that the players speak to each other in English.
And there’s another surprise in the form of 29-year-old doctor Saied Muhammad Asif Raza: he’s from Pakistan.
“Between the governments and in (professional) cricket there are always problems, but the people get on really well and within the team the are no problems whatsoever,” said Asif.
He left his home town of Multan, 10 hours from Islamabad, at 19 and moved to Cuba thanks to a Fidel Castro scholarship.
After returning home, he found he couldn’t readapt to his own culture.
“I didn’t come here to find a better life economically, I had a better life in my country because in my family we didn’t lack for anything,” said Asif.
“The thing is that when you live many years away, nowhere is home, and cricket brings me close to it.”
Although now at home on their small patch, finding something more permanent is crucial to Montevideo’s cricketers.
“We’re looking for a permanent ground,” Beerbal Maniyattukudy, the Uruguayan cricket association’s secretary, told AFP.
“We have 120 players this year. On top of that we’re starting some women’s teams and for now we have 20 people interested. We also have plans for an under-15s league.”
The solution may lie with Uruguay’s most popular football team: Penarol.
Penarol started life as the Central Uruguay Railway Cricket Club (CURCC), founded by British railway workers in 1891.
It was a multisport club — but just over 20 years later, its football section broke off and was absorbed by a newly created team, Penarol.
The original club’s cricket section disappeared as football became the main focus — but it was relaunched a week ago.
And crucially, Penarol are planning to build a cricket pitch an hour outside Montevideo.
“When we raised the idea of cricket, there wasn’t much to sort out; everyone was aware of what it meant to the history of the club, we just needed to work out how to make it happen,” said Leonardo Vinas, who is heading up the project.
While many club members signed up to be involved, very few have ever played cricket.
Vinas says the project will take time, not just to spread interest in the sport, but also for the club’s staff to get their heads around the rules of the game.
“Even now, we’re still not clear about certain rules.”