There are few footballers who bear the weight of so many hopes and dreams in quite the way Mohamed Salah does.
As both the best Muslim and African player on a planet in which those two demographics make up a good third of the population, arguably only the likes of Messi and Ronaldo can understand the amount of pressure to perform for club and country that a player like Salah operates under on a daily basis.
Much like Messi’s brief 2016 retirement from international duty after a string of heartbreaks with the Argentina national team, the failure of the biggest stars to live up to the aspirations of millions can be too much for even the strong willed.
It is why fans can only imagine what Salah is going through at the moment after his Egypt side suffered the heartache of losing to Sadio Mane’s Senegal in a pivotal game for the second time in less than two months.
Needing to beat Senegal to advance to the World Cup, the Pharoahs succumbed in a penalty shootout, just like February’s African Cup of Nation’s final, with Salah himself blazing a spot kick over the bar.
Locker room footage after the game appeared to show the Egyptian talisman suggesting to his teammates that he might have played his final international game.
“I told the players before the second match that I am proud to play with them and they are among the best I have played with,” a clearly crestfallen Salah says in the video.
“I am proud to play with you and it was an honor for me, and what happened cannot be interfered with by anyone because for the second time it is a penalty shootout.
“There is not much I can say but it has been an honor to play with you, whether I will be in the national team after that or not.”
Salah, however, was interrupted by the Egyptian Minister of Sports, Ashraf Sobhi, who said: “You will be there.”