Mohamed Salah stands alone as the greatest Arab footballer of all

Liverpool's Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Salah scores his team's second goal during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Crystal Palace at Anfield. (AFP)
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Updated 26 June 2020

Mohamed Salah stands alone as the greatest Arab footballer of all

  • On Thursday night, without even having to lace up his boots, Liverpool’ Egyptian forward became a Premier League champion

DUBAI: Egypt’s Mohammed Aboutrika is arguably the strongest challenger. There are strong cases for Tunisian Tarak Dhiab and the Algerians Rabah Madjer and Riyad Mahrez. Also in the conversation could be Saudi Arabia’s Majed Abdullah and Sami Al-Jaber, as well the Kuwaitis Jasem Yaqoub, Fathi Kameel and Faisal Al-Dakheel.

But it’s hard to argue that Mohamed Salah now stands alone as the greatest Arab footballer of all time.

On Thursday night, without even having to lace up his boots, the Liverpool forward became a Premier League champion thanks to Chelsea’s 2-1 defeat of Manchester City. His growing, and glowing, medal collection already included gold from the UEFA Champions League, Club World Cup and European Supercup.

But it’s that desperately coveted English league title that has sealed his immortality among adoring Liverpool fans, and the rest of the world.

Since walking into Anfield with that effervescent, beaming smile on June 22, 2017, he has helped transform the club from challengers to champions (or, initially, as his manager Jurgen Klopp demanded, “from doubters to believers”). After 30 years of false dawns and broken promises, Liverpool are champions again. 

If the signing of center back Virgil Van Dijk and goalkeeper Alisson Becker in the winter and summer following Salah’s arrival proved the final pieces of the jigsaw for Klopp, then Sadio Mané’s transfer from Southampton in the summer of 2016 could be said to be the first piece.

Salah, to switch metaphors, has proven to be the team’s catalyst to greatness.

After a couple of poor Premier League seasons either side of Klopp’s appointment in October 2015, Liverpool had just scraped into the 2017-18 Champions League by finishing fourth when the club paid Roma 35 million euros for Salah’s services.

In his first year at the club, Liverpool — playing some staggering high-energy football — finished fourth again. However, they stormed to the Champions League final in Kiev, where they lost 3-1 to Real Madrid in a match predominantly remembered for Salah’s tears after a first-half shoulder injury forced his substitution — and, of course, for Liverpool’s then-goalkeeper Loris Karius’ two awful mistakes.

Despite that disappointment, the season was a personal triumph for the man the Liverpool fans had nicknamed the ‘Egyptian King.’ He scored on his debut against Watford. And then didn’t stop scoring.




Liverpool fans celebrate winning the Premier League with a cutout photo of Mohamed Salah outside Anfield after Chelsea won their match against Manchester City. (Action Images via Reuters)

Early on in the season he scored his “road-runner” goal against Arsenal, in which he ran the full length of the Anfield pitch before finishing with ice-cool precision past Petr Cech. There was the brilliant curling effort in the snow against Everton that won the FIFA Puskas award for best goal of 2017. Against Leicester he scored a superb game-turning double, and against Tottenham a stunning last-minute solo strike to rescue a draw.

There were further goals against Arsenal and Chelsea. In a storming 4-3 win against eventual champions Manchester City he chipped the advanced Ederson from what seemed an implausible distance. In March he netted four against Watford and on the last day of the season his strike against Brighton meant he was crowned top scorer in the Premier League with a record 32 goals. He also turned in a barely believable man-of-the-match display as Liverpool annihilated Roma 5-2 in the Champions League.

In all, Salah scored 44 in all competitions that season and was named the PFA Player of the Year. He was now being spoken of in the same breath as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Despite the Champions League heartbreak, and Egypt’s disappointing World Cup showing (in which he still scored twice), Salah would be back to his old tricks the following season.

The goals continued to flow as Liverpool lost just one Premier League match yet somehow still finished second behind Pep Guardiola’s brilliant Manchester City. For the second season running Salah won the golden boot, this time sharing it with Mané and Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Redemption came, in spectacular fashion, in the Champions League.

In a second successive final appearance, Salah banished the previous year’s misery by scoring an early penalty as Liverpool overcame Tottenham 2-0 in Madrid to win the top European club trophy for the sixth time. Salah was the first Egyptian footballer to win club football’s greatest prize.

But it is the current season that has confirmed Salah’s and his teammates’ status as Liverpool legends. An astonishing 28 wins from 31 matches has seen the Premier League title wrapped up with seven matches still to play. After 30 years of disappointment, it was Salah’s last-minute goal against Manchester United in a 2-0 win in January that prompted a hysterical Anfield to finally sing “We’re gonna win the league.”

Not surprisingly, Salah is currently Liverpool’s top scorer again and could — by the end of the season — win the golden boot for a record-equaling third time, as well as score his 100th goal for the champions. Few of his predecessors can claim such a period of devastating excellence combined with team and individual prizes. 

Aboutrika — Salah’s boyhood hero — was a balletic dream of a footballer whose control, movement and passing evoked the great Zinedine Zidane at his finest. Madjer scored historic goals for Porto as they won the European Cup and the Intercontinental Cup in 1987, and was one of the architects of Algeria’s sensational 2-1 win over West Germany at the 1982 World Cup in Spain. Mahrez is one of only 10 players to win the Premier League with two clubs and could yet taste Champions League glory with Manchester City. The aforementioned Gulf quintet, meanwhile, all represented their countries at the World Cup, but were beloved heroes closer to these shores.

But Salah is an international phenomenon who has transcended the boundaries of sport. From painted murals in New York City to ubiquitous advertising posters in his native Egypt and fashion magazines across the world, his irrepressible smile has made him one of the world’s most recognizable athletes.  

And, with a priceless Premier League medal in the bag, he is now the Arab footballer all others look up to.


‘I couldn’t see where I was going,’ says Lewis Hamilton after Austria rain masterclass

Updated 11 July 2020

‘I couldn’t see where I was going,’ says Lewis Hamilton after Austria rain masterclass

  • After a disappointing practice day on Friday, the six-time world champion bounced back to his best

SPIELBERG, Austria: Lewis Hamilton said he survived some “heart in the mouth” moments on Saturday as he claimed a spectacular pole position in treacherous rain-swept conditions for Sunday’s Styrian Grand Prix.
After a disappointing practice day on Friday, the six-time world champion bounced back to his best as he outpaced nearest rival Max Verstappen of Red Bull by more than 1.2 seconds.
His dramatic demonstration of supreme skill and speed on a wet track at the Red Bull Ring increased his record total of pole positions to 89.
“Honestly, I am pleased with that,” he said.
“What a tricky day! The weather is obviously incredibly difficult out there for all of us and, a lot of the time, you cannot actually see where you are going.
“I had one big moment, on the lap before last, when I had a big aquaplane.
“I had my heart in my mouth, but I was able to improve on the last lap, nice and clean. I love these days.”
The 35-year-old Briton had struggled with set-up issues on his Mercedes in Friday’s practice sessions, but said the team had resolved them and he was confident about Sunday’s race, whatever the conditions.
“Yesterday was a difficult day,” said Hamilton.
“It started off well in FP1 and then in FP2 there was a big issue for us, but we discovered it overnight — nothing major.
“I think today would have been better for us if it had been dry, but I am grateful for the rain, like always! I love these kind of conditions.
“Tomorrow looks like a much sunnier day, but we are prepared for both conditions and that’s where I want to start.
“So, I am glad it was a trouble-free session with no mistakes. That’s always a positive.”
Hamilton’s performance enabled him to prove also that his form has not been affected by his passionate support for the global Black Lives Matter movement and the anti-racism efforts launched in Formula One.
“I don’t feel like I need to refocus,” he said this week after finishing fifth in last Sunday’s season-opening Austrian Grand Prix on the same circuit, won by his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas.
“My race was pretty strong. I need to do a better job, but I wouldn’t say I was distracted. I am focused on both — trying to fight and win this championship, but also fighting for equal rights.”
On Thursday, he said he was hoping to be able to take the knee again — as he and 13 other drivers did before last Sunday’s race — and was seeking a way to make this possible.
“If I can find a way of making sure it doesn’t get in the way of us doing our job, then I will,” he said.