CAIRO: Egyptian Liverpool player Mohamed Salah has been included in the FIFA FIFPro World11 candidates list, which includes 55 nominations for 2019.
Salah, who plays right wing, won the 2019 UEFA Champions League, and holds two top-scorer awards for the Premier League in the last two seasons.
But his nomination has triggered debate in Egypt over his Premier League performance this year, and his relatively poor play in the Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt this summer.
“I was a bit surprised to see him named after his performances last season,” said Amr Hassan, political and sports analyst at Euronews.
“Salah had a great season, finished as the Premiership’s top goal scorer and helped Liverpool win the Champions League … but by his own standards and compared to the season before, he underachieved.”
Salah was also criticized for supporting his teammate Amr Warda, who was accused of harassment during the Africa Cup of Nations and was temporarily banned from the squad.
“This year, Salah unnecessarily got involved in off-the-pitch incidents like supporting Amr Warda after he was accused of sexual harassment, only to come back later and say that Warda needs rehabilitation,” Hassan said.
“The stance was very contradictory to what he previously said about the need to respect women in the Middle East,” Hassan added.
“It affected his performance with Egypt in the Africa Cup of Nations, which was a massive disappointment to all Egyptian fans.”
Host country Egypt was ousted in the round of 16 by South Africa. Activists launched a wave of criticism against Salah for his support of Warda, who was dubbed the “harasser.”
After the Africa Cup of Nations, Salah thanked fans in a tweet, and promised that he and other team members would learn from the mistakes made during the tournament.
“People in Egypt have mixed emotions about Salah,” said sports analyst Marwan Negm. “Most people are fanatics when it comes to his achievements with Liverpool. However, a lot of people were disappointed with the African tournament in terms of his commitment and his support for Warda.
“Many thought he should’ve stepped up in the cup, which he didn’t do. He absolutely gave everything but wasn’t successful. Nevertheless, I’d say the majority love him, and they follow Liverpool because of him.”
According to FIFA, the World11 is decided by players, and involves votes from thousands of professional footballers from across the world.
During voting, players each select one goalkeeper, four defenders, three midfielders and three forward.
The final list will be announced at the Best FIFA Football Award ceremony at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan on Sept. 23.