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.”


Iraq coach Katanec looking for performances over results in Saudi friendly

Updated 14 October 2018
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Iraq coach Katanec looking for performances over results in Saudi friendly

  • On Friday, Iraq were heavily defeated by Argentina, 4-0
  • Iraq coach Srecko Katanec has emphasised the importance of his team’s performance in Monday’s friendly against Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: Iraq coach Srecko Katanec has emphasised the importance of his team’s performance in Monday’s friendly against Saudi Arabia as he seeks to build ahead of next year’s Asian Cup in the UAE and the qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
“Really, I don’t care about the results,” Katanec told Arab News. “What will be, will be. I hope that I will see good things from our players — personality and nothing more. I will just ask the players to give all that they have. Nothing more, nothing less. If you want to show too much in a game, that behavior can be a problem also.”
On Friday, Iraq were heavily defeated by Argentina, 4-0. Katanec fielded a reinforced five-men defense, but to little avail as Lautaro Martinez, Roberto Pereyra, German Pezzella and Franco Cervi all got on the scoreboard. “To prepare a friendly match with two training sessions… with players that I don’t quite know — how they are, how their behavior is and all these things, that’s difficult but anyway we are here, that is our job,” said Katanec
Ali Adnan from Atlanta in Italy and Justin Meram from Columbus Crew in the US started against Argentina, but the new Iraq coach may ring the changes against Saudi Arabia, a team he rates highly.
“I will give a chance to all the players who are now with us,” said Katanec. “I hope that we will be at a very good level. Saudi Arabia is a good team, a 100 percent. If they participated in the World Cup, they deserved it. They also played quite good football in Russia, even in the first game: a part of the first game, but the following two matches they were very solid. I know, in this region you have good players. Saudi Arabia have invested a lot of money in football and that’s important. So, big respect for them. They can show, if they can, that they are better than us, but we will also try to do our best.”
In September the Slovenian was appointed coach of Iraq, succeeding Basim Qasim.
Katanec enjoys a wealth of experience in the international game, having guided his native Slovenia to the 2002 World Cup finals in Japan and South Korea. He also coached the United Arab Emirates from 2009 and 2011, but his 2011 Asian Cup campaign ended in disappointment as his team failed to register a single point in a group with Iraq, Iran and North Korea.
The 55-year-old considers the friendly against the Green Falcons a part of the learning curve for Iraq as they look toward the 2019 Asian Cup and the qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup. In November, Iraq have confirmed a friendly against Jordan in preparation for the continental tournament where they will face Iran, Vietnam and Yemen in group D.
“These friendly games are very important in that I will know what to do before the Asian Cup,” explained Katanec. “We need information: how the players are, what their condition is like at this moment. You know, the media at all times want to put some pressure on all of us, but until now I am very satisfied with how the team works.”