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The Player Behind the Name: Mohamed Salah, Part One

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The first in a two part segment on Liverpool’s prolific number 11

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Mohamed Salah Ghaly was born in Nagrig, Gharbia in Egypt on 15 June 1992. He began his youth career in football in 2006, at the age of 13 for Egyptian Premier League Club, El Mokawloon.

Salah’s football career before Liverpool

In 2010, he became part of the first team and scored 11 goals in 38 appearances before transferring to FC Basel in 2012 where he played for two seasons, scoring nine goals in 47 appearances.

While at Basel, Salah scored his first ever Champions League goal on 6 August 2013 against Israeli Premier League club, Maccabi Tel Aviv (managed by Jordi Cruyff) in the third qualifying round. He then went on to score against his future club, Chelsea in Basel’s 2-1 away win during the group stage and scored the winning (and only) goal in the return leg at St. Jakob Park.

Salah’s first stint in the Premier League began in 2014 when he was signed by Chelsea during the January transfer window, becoming the first Egyptian to sign for the London based club. He went on to score two goals in ten appearances during the 2013-14 season. Before the start of the 2014-15 season, a meeting was held between the Egyptian Prime Minister, Ibrahim Mahlab, the Minister of Higher Education, the Egyptian national manager Shawky Gharib and Salah to discuss his pending military call-up and it was agreed that Salah would be spared of military service. Salah went on to make only three appearances for Chelsea before being sent out on an 18 month loan spell to Italian club, Fiorentina in which he scored six goals in 16 appearances for the club. Despite Fiorentina’s decision to purchase Salah at the end of the 2014-15 season, Salah did not want to stay at the club and moved to fellow Serie A club, AS Roma in August 2015 and made his club debut on 22 August 2015.

Salah went on to score 15 goals (six assists) for Roma and was named Player of the Season for 2015-16, finishing as the club’s top scorer. Roma signed Salah on a permanent deal for the 2016-17 season with the Egyptian going on to play some of his best football under Coach Luciano Spalletti. Salah went on to score 19 goals (11 assists) in 40 appearances for the club, finishing as Roma’s second top scorer (after Edin Dzeko, who benefited from seven Salah assists) before signing for Liverpool on 22 June 2017.

What do Salah’s former managers say about him?

Vincenzo Montella, Fiorentina: We knew the superb characteristics of the player, but we did not expect him to have such an impact on Italian football. Perhaps only Messi is faster than him with the ball at one’s feet.’

Luciano Spalletti, AS Roma coach worked closely with Salah on aspects of his game and helped the player to slow things down in his head to process the right shot selection or make the right pass as he used to run like the wind and move with such speed that there was little time to decide, let alone think about what to do next. Spalletti quipped “You need a moped to catch him!”

José Mourinho managed Salah at Chelsea and made these comments when the club signed him in 2014: He’s young, he’s fast, he’s creative, he’s enthusiastic. When we analysed him he looks the kind of humble personality on the pitch, ready to work for the team.

Salah was nicknamed the Egyptian Messi by the Italian media during his time in Serie A because of his technical skills, pace and his direct style of play.

International career

Salah made 11 appearances for the Egypt U-20 team and Egypt U-23 team and represented Egypt in both 2011 FIFA U-20 World Cup and the 2012 Summer Olympics, scoring in all three of the team’s group matches in the latter tournament, helping them to the quarter-finals. On 3 September 2011, Salah made his debut for the Egypt national football team in a 2-1 loss to Sierra Leone and scored his first goal for Egypt’s first team in their 3–0 win against Niger a month later.

Since that first senior goal, Salah has made a further 54 appearances for his country and scored 31 more goals.

Style of play

Salah’s main feature is of course his speed and he is well known for this coupled with his dribbling skills, first touch and his excellent control of the ball, as well as his ability to use his pace and flair on the ball to beat opponents while creating scoring opportunities for himself and his team mates. Salah is left footed and thrives as a winger on the right flank but can also play in the centre behind the main striker as a second striker or an attacking, creative (i.e. number ten) midfielder.

Club Honours

Basel: Swiss Super League: 2012–13, 2013–14

Chelsea: Premier League: 2014–15; Football League Cup: 2014–15

International Honours

Egypt: African Youth Championship Bronze Medal: 2011; Africa Cup of Nations: Runner-up 2017

Stay tuned for some surprising facts about Mo in Part Two of The Man Behind the Name: Mohamed Salah, tomorrow.

Up the Reds!