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
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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.”


Pakistan’s Mohammad Amir ‘100 percent ready’ to face England, says coach

Updated 22 May 2018
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Pakistan’s Mohammad Amir ‘100 percent ready’ to face England, says coach

  • Left-armer is fit after a knee injury
  • 'He’s fine, he’s ready to go'

LONDON: Pakistan spearhead Mohammad Amir is “100 percent ready” for the first Test against England at Lord’s starting on Thursday despite a knee injury, according to team coach Mickey Arthur.
The left-arm fast bowler was seen stretching out his right knee as Pakistan beat Test debutants Ireland by five wickets during a one-off match in Malahide, Dublin concluded last week.
Pakistan bowling coach Azhar Mahmood suggested Amir had suffered a recurrence of a “chronic” problem.
But head coach Arthur, speaking to reporters at Lord’s on Tuesday, had no qualms about the fitness of Amir.
“He’s perfect, 100 percent,” Arthur insisted. “He’s fine, he’s ready to go.”
As for Amir, missing Pakistan’s final warm-up match ahead of the two-Test England series, last weekend’s drawn match against Leicestershire, Arthur added: “It was his rotation. (Mohammad) Abbas sat out the first (tour) game, Hasan (Ali) sat out the second, so he sat out the third.”
Amir was the hottest property in world cricket after bursting on the scene as a teenager in 2009 and at 18 he was the youngest bowler to have taken 50 Test wickets.
But his world was turned upside down in 2010 when he became involved in a spot-fixing scandal after deliberately bowling no-balls during the Lord’s Test against England — an incident that would eventually see him sent to prison by an English court and given a five-year ban by the International Cricket Council.
Amir’s first 14 Tests saw him take 51 wickets at just a fraction over 23 apiece, figures that had him on course to be an all-time great.
But the 17 Tests since his comeback two years ago have seen him take 49 wickets at a more expensive average of 34.91
Amir, and Pakistan for that matter, have not been helped by the fact that those 17 Tests since 2016 have also seen 16 catches dropped off his bowling.
The stigma of his spot-fixing exile has started to fade, with Amir playing for Pakistan during their 2-2 draw in a four-Test series in England two years ago.
He also starred for Essex as they won English domestic cricket’s first-class County Championship title last season.
Now the 26-year-old Amir is set to be the leader of an inexperienced Pakistan attack.
England, who didn’t manage a single win during their recent seven combined Tests in Australia and New Zealand, collapsed to 58 all out in Auckland in March as Kiwi left-arm quick Trent Boult took six wickets.
And Arthur backed Amir to do similar damage
“I think Mohammad Amir is the finest exponent of pace and swing when he gets it 100 percent right,” Arthur said.
“We’ve used that spell that Trent Boult bowled in Auckland. We’ve had a look at his lengths.
“We believe he (Amir) bowls incredibly well at left-handers and there will be three left-handers (Alastair Cook, Mark Stoneman and Dawid Malan) in the (England) top four.
“He’s ready, I just hope it goes really well for him because he’s been unlucky at times with the amount of dropped catches.
“He’s ready, he’s determined, he’s fit, he’s strong, he’s excited, he’s in a very good place at the moment.”
Arthur is unusual in having served as the head coach of three leading nations — his native South Africa, Australia and Pakistan.
But he was adamant he had no desire to replace Trevor Bayliss when the Australian steps down as England coach next year.
“No, I’m very happy,” Arthur said. “I’d like to keep going with Pakistan for as long as they will have me because it’s unfinished business for us at the moment. This is a very young cricket team and I worry if we move on what happens to these guys. Their fitness regime is outstanding, they are training hard and they are enjoying their cricket. I’m very, very happy with where I am at the moment,” he insisted.