The year Mo Salah showed the Premier League he was the best around

Mohamed Salah was named PFA Player of the Year in his debut Liverpool season, after a campaign which yielded 44 goals. JAMES NOBLE remembers a year like no other for the Egyptian.

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The Egyptian made a seismic impact during his first campaign as a Liverpool player. 44 goals and 14 assists in 52 games, a Premier League goalscoring record, a Champions League final. Where to start?

The end, ultimately, would be somewhat gut wrenching in this particular year.

He started as he meant to go on, nonetheless – in that season and each that has followed. By scoring.

It’s easy to forget the doubts that surrounded the then 25-year-old upon his arrival on June 22, 2017.

He’d struggled, understandably, to establish himself within an immensely strong Chelsea squad during his previous Premier League spell.


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There were moments of promise during his 12 months playing for the west Londoners between January 2014 and February 2015, but few true reflections of his talents.

Loan spells at Fiorentina and then Roma saw him hit his stride again, though, and the move to Merseyside came only a year after he’d permanently joined the latter.

This turnaround was a reflection of his success and his evolution. He scored 15 goals and registered 11 assists in the 2016/17 Serie A season and was also now notably stronger physically.

Easy to say with hindsight, but he looked and felt Premier League-primed.

The £37.8m fee was still, understandably, viewed by several as somewhat on the steep side.

It wasn’t.

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He took the Reds’ front-three to a new level of functionality. Salah attacking inside from the right, Sadio Mané doing likewise from the left, and Roberto Firmino linking play and feeding in between.

At times in the first six months, it would be a front four. Philippe Coutinho thrived alongside his attacking acquaintances.

After a promising pre-season – and as Barcelona’s chasing of the distracted Coutinho became a headline-dominator – Salah won a penalty and scored his first competitive goal for the club in the 3-3 opening day draw at Watford.

By the end of August, he had three – courtesy of a rebound against Hoffenheim in the Champions League play-offs and the memorable breakaway effort against Arsenal.

Six by the end of September.

Nine by the end of October.

17 by the end of November.

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As the temperatures dropped, the stakes rose and the team settled into an increasingly effective rhythm, he simply seemed to push up through the gears.

This was someone showing he could unequivocally crack the Premier League, just in case anyone was still wondering.

His goal completed the scoring as Jürgen Klopp’s men secured top spot in their Champions League group – and a Round of 16 place – with a 7-0 Anfield victory over Spartak Moscow on December 6.

23 by the end of December.

Coutinho – who netted a hat-trick in that continental thrashing – had headed to Catalonia by the time the No.11 next scored.

Virgil van Dijk was also at Anfield by then, though.

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‘Then’ was during the blockbusting 4-3 victory over previously unbeaten Premier League leaders Manchester City, on January 14.

His 40-yard second-half lob over Ederson – which made it 4-1 at the end of a breathless few minutes in which the Reds scored thrice – remains one of the most iconic of his 122 goals for the club to date.

26 by the end of January.

31 by the end of February.

That included a stunning late solo effort in a 2-2 Anfield draw with Spurs – which should have proved a winner – and a brilliantly cool conversion during the 5-0 win at Porto in the first leg of the Champions League Round of 16 tie.

37 by the end of March.

Four goals against Watford in the middle of the month rubbed in his excellence in front of goal.

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43 by the end of April.

One goal in each leg of the excellent 5-1 aggregate victory over Manchester City in the continental quarter-finals.

A sumptuous looping header from a pin-point Trent Alexander-Arnold cross against Bournemouth.

A brilliant brace of goals and assists in the 5-2 semi-final first leg victory over his former employers, Roma.

A deadeye curler that kissed the crossbar on its way into the top-left corner and a deft dink over a certain Alisson Becker summed up the variety in his goalscoring game.

Within all of that, of course, was also that PFA prize.

44 by the end of May.

That last goal of his astounding 2017/18 was so valuable.

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It opened the scoring in a 4-0 win against Brighton that helped ensure, on the final day of the league season, that the Reds would again finish in the top four.

By taking his total to 32, it also saw him break the record for goals scored by a single player in a 38-game Premier League season – which had previously been held by Cristiano Ronaldo, who had struck 31 times in 2007/08.

Then, 13 days later, came that final in Kiev against Real Madrid.

It stung. The 3-1 defeat. The painful, costly errors of goalkeeper Loris Karius. And, of course, how Salah was forced off through injury in the first half.

The sight of Sergio Ramos dragging him to the turf, and the tears that followed – as he realised his shoulder injury wasn’t one he could play through – remains painful.

He and so many others have helped to ensure that that night represented another beginning, of sorts, though.

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The Champions League would be won, in Madrid, 371 days later.

That long-awaited Premier League would finally be secured in June 2020.

There would be 78 more Salah goals, and counting.

That he has remained a relentless, ruthless performer throughout much of the relative struggle and strangeness of 2020/21 is another glowing reflection of his consistency and mindset.

With 28 goals this term, it’s already guaranteed to be at least his second best goalscoring season for the club.

He’s broken so much ground and cued so many beginnings.

We must do our best to appreciate his reliably exceptional excellence.

Appearance, goals and assists statistics from lfchistory.net.


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