It is better for injured Salah to miss a few games than jeopardize career

Liverpool‘s Mohamed Salah scores a goal against Manchester City. (Reuters)
Updated 15 November 2019

It is better for injured Salah to miss a few games than jeopardize career

  • Klopp and Liverpool fans desperately want to successfully defend their Championship League title

CAIRO: A date for Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah’s return to action remains unclear with an ankle injury rumored to be more serious than at first thought.

The 27-year-old Egyptian star has been ruled out of his country’s upcoming international games and is a doubt for the Reds next Premier League match against Crystal Palace on Nov. 23.

Salah originally suffered the injury in league leaders Liverpool’s 2-1 win over Leicester City on Oct. 5, hobbling off the pitch at Anfield after coming under a second-half challenge from Foxes midfielder Hamza Choudhury.

The injury seemingly got worse during his side’s 3-1 home win over rivals Manchester City following a tackle by Brazilian midfielder Fernandinho.

The player was consequently withdrawn from the African qualifiers against Kenya and Comoros and was seen wearing a protective boot on his left foot as he sat out a national team training session in Cairo.

There has been speculation that the No. 11 could be out for up to four weeks, which if true would mean Salah might be unavailable for Liverpool’s next six games, including the final two group fixtures in the Champions League.

That would not be good news for Liverpool who will be eager for him to play against Crystal Palace. In the bigger scheme of things, the club is hoping to ensure he stays fit enough to maintain his key role in Jurgen Klopp’s attack.

Being one of the world’s best players, Salah is an essential cog for club and country. The only Premier League game he has sat out for Liverpool this season, away to Manchester United, is the only match the Reds have failed to win.

On Thursday, when Egypt surprisingly drew 1-1 with Kenya at home, the Pharaohs seemed affected by the absence of the influential Salah, falling short against a team 108th in FIFA rankings, 60 places behind Egypt.

The obvious conclusion is that when Salah is playing and is fit, Liverpool and Egypt’s chances of winning games and championships are markedly increased. 

When he is not on the pitch, the odds of being triumphant noticeably decrease.

Football is a rough, physical contact sport. Sprains and strains are part of the game. 

But pain relief sprays do not always fix the problem. 

While Salah will be told to keep his ankle elevated and stay off it whenever possible, these instructions may not be the complete panacea.

Rest is usually the best medicine for injuries. However, in international cut-throat football, being out of action for long stretches is not an option.

Klopp and Liverpool fans desperately want to successfully defend their Champions League title. 

They would also relish a Premier League crown, especially after losing out by a one-point whisker to Manchester City last season.

The title is this season within Liverpool’s grasp with them currently topping the table on 34 points after 12 games, eight ahead of Leicester City and Chelsea, and with a nine-point gap on Manchester City. It is almost 30 years since Liverpool last won the league. 

If Salah does miss half-a-dozen games, it would indicate his injury is worse than originally thought. 

Apart from the infamous tackle with Spanish ace Sergio Ramos that left his shoulder with sprained ligaments when he hit the ground, and a collision with Newcastle United goalkeeper Martin Dubravka that resulted in concussion, Salah is not a regular face in the injury room.

He has only sat out one match through injury during two-and-a-half years playing at Anfield and didn’t miss a game for the Reds in last season’s Premier League campaign, only being used as a substitute once.

It remains to be seen whether Salah will be fit for the trip to Selhurst Park. Klopp clearly has options to rotate if his Egyptian star is unavailable. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Divock Origi have both filled roles in the attack this season, while Swiss winger Xherdan Shaqiri is expected back from injury after the international break.

But Salah is a hard act for anyone to follow. The forward has nine goals in 17 appearances in all competitions for the Reds this term. However, common sense dictates that if Salah is not completely fit and Klopp has alternatives, then it would be wise not to play him. Playing with an injury produces short-term gain but could lead to long-term pain.

At least Liverpool are not hiding Salah’s injury, as they apparently did with Andy Robertson, the full-back whose ankle injury kept him out of the Scotland squad amid a news blackout on his condition.

Salah’s injury is not a secret; however, it is the extent of the injury which is creating concerns. Injuries that do not heal properly can end careers.

It is understood Salah has been given the chance to train away from Liverpool’s Melwood training ground as he continues his rehabilitation, and the club will grant him an extended period of time off over the international break. 

The club is limiting his involvement in training and providing regular treatment.

Up to now Liverpool have been playing it safe and not risking their prized possession. 

But the temptation to rush Salah back before he is fully fit is surely strong. In that case, the club should ask itself how many players, footballers and otherwise, have had their time on fields and courts come to a premature end due to injury?

The Premier League — like life — is full of hard knocks. 

But there’s a difference between injuries that are treatable and those that are career threatening.

It is best for all concerned that Salah forfeits some football now rather than stop playing forever.


The NBA MVP finalists: Antetokounmpo, James and Harden

Updated 09 August 2020

The NBA MVP finalists: Antetokounmpo, James and Harden

  • James would join Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (a six-time winner), Michael Jordan and Bill Russell as the NBA’s only five-time MVPs
  • Antetokounmpo is bidding to become the 12th back-to-back winner of the award

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Florida: This season’s NBA MVP has won the award before.
A trio of past winners of the award — reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks, four-time MVP LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers and 2017-18 winner James Harden of the Houston Rockets — were announced Saturday as the finalists for this season’s top NBA individual honor.
James would join Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (a six-time winner), Michael Jordan and Bill Russell as the NBA’s only five-time MVPs. Antetokounmpo is bidding to become the 12th back-to-back winner of the award, and Harden is vying for his second MVP in three seasons.
“He’s an incredible teammate, plays unselfishly, does everything,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said of Antetokounmpo last month, stating his best player’s MVP case. “And I think that’s kind of what the MVP is, so we certainly feel like he’s very deserving and we’ll be excited to support him.”
Antetokounmpo is also a finalist for Defensive Player of the Year, while Utah’s Rudy Gobert is bidding to win that trophy for a third consecutive season.
The league announced the top three vote-getters in six individual categories. Voting has already taken place by a global panel of sportswriters and broadcasters.
The NBA has not set specific dates when the winners will be announced.
None of the games taking place at the NBA’s restart at Walt Disney World factored into the voting, because ballots were due before games began again July 30.
The league took the step of saying games played before the league suspended the season on March 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic could factor into award consideration, out of fairness to the eight teams that were not invited to the restart.
The other finalists for NBA honors:
Rookie of the Year — Ja Morant, Memphis; Kendrick Nunn, Miami; Zion Williamson, New Orleans.
Most Improved Player — Bam Adebayo, Miami; Luka Doncic, Dallas; Brandon Ingram, New Orleans.
Sixth Man — Montrezl Harrell, Los Angeles Clippers; Dennis Schroder, Oklahoma City; Lou Williams, Los Angeles Clippers.
Defensive Player of the Year — Antetokounmpo; Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers; Rudy Gobert, Utah.
Coach of the Year — Mike Budenholzer, Milwaukee; Billy Donovan, Oklahoma City; Nick Nurse, Toronto.


GASOL VS. GRIZZLIES
Marc Gasol spent parts of 11 seasons in Memphis, going to three All-Star Games with a Grizzlies jersey on his back, earning two All-NBA selections there and a Defensive Player of the Year award as well.
And now, he’ll play against his former team for the first time.
The Grizzlies face Gasol and the Toronto Raptors on Sunday. It’ll be the first game between the clubs since Gasol was traded to Toronto in February 2019 — a move that helped the Raptors win last season’s NBA championship.
Gasol said facing Memphis would be emotional.
“I got there when I was 16 years old. It was my first time out of Spain,” said Gasol, who still owns his Memphis home. “I started high school there as a teenager and left as a father of two kids. ... My ties to the city and my roots go pretty deep and my love for the people there, what they mean and the franchise, it’s forever.”
Gasol helped Memphis make the playoffs in seven consecutive seasons including the 2013 run to the Western Conference finals. He is the Grizzlies’ all-time leader for minutes played, field goals made, free throws made and attempted, rebounds, blocks and triple-doubles and is second in points — 49 behind Mike Conley.
The Raptors were supposed to have played back-to-back games against Memphis this season, going there March 28 and then playing host to the Grizzlies March 30. Those games, of course, were called off because of the season suspension caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Obviously it’s a little bittersweet that we couldn’t play in the city of Memphis, to get that love and feel that Iove from the fans,” Raptors guard Fred VanVleet said. “But I’m sure he’ll be happy to see some familiar faces and a lot of the people that he spent a lot of time with over the years.”


WORKING WIZARDS
On Friday, the Washington Wizards were eliminated from playoff contention.
On Saturday, they practiced.
The Wizards knew they were playoff longshots even before coming to the NBA’s restart at Disney, especially since Bradley Beal didn’t make the trip because of injury and Davis Bertans opted not to play because of health concerns.
But these eight games — Washington is 0-5 at Disney with three games left — were considered learning opportunities for the team’s young players, and a chance to get some high-level work in before the offseason starts. And just because the playoff chances are now gone doesn’t mean Wizards coach Scott Brooks is changing his thinking on that front.
“It’s about getting better,” Brooks said. “You know, I love our group. We want to keep improving. And the record, I’m not happy with it but I’m happy with our effort after every game that we’ve been in.”
Brooks has told his team repeatedly at Disney that the losses go on his record, not theirs.
“You can’t waste the days, you have to keep working on each day and keep improving and it’s hard,” Brooks said. “It’s hard to go through, you know, five losses in a row. But in order to get where we need to get to, you’re going to have to deal with it. You’re going to have to be able to handle it. You’re going to have to be able to get better from it, and it also has to hurt, going through it. And that’s fine.”


BUCKS CLINCH
The road to the NBA championship will go through Milwaukee’s white uniforms.
The Bucks have secured the top overall seed in the NBA playoffs for the second consecutive year, the clincher coming when the Los Angeles Lakers lost to Indiana on Saturday.
Ordinarily, that would come with the right to host Game 1 and Game 7 of every series. This year, it just means that the Bucks will be called the home team in those games in each postseason round that they reach.