Over the past week, Liverpool’s contract situation with Mohamed Salah has found its way back onto the front pages, with the player’s agent kicking off the latest round of contract drama on Friday with a not-so-cryptic response to manager Jürgen Klopp suggesting the final decision was in the player’s hands.
Klopp had said the club “did what the club can do” when it came to offering the player a new deal, with his current contract expiring in 2023. The response of Salah’s agent was to take to social media and laugh. Subsequently, stories emerged suggesting a sizeable gap remained between the two sides, and one of the game’s great ex-managers at least thinks it is Liverpool who should close that gap.
“Yes, you would do it,” Wenger replied when asked if he’d give the Liverpool winger base wages north of £400k per week for another three or four seasons. “Yes of course. Mo Salah is a mixture a bit between Ronaldo and Messi and from August until the African Cup of Nations he was certainly the best player in the world.”
The best player in the world, almost certainly. Worthy of being Liverpool’s best paid player, inarguably. Yet the reality of the club’s wage structure cannot be entirely ignored, with Virgil van Dijk recently renewing at £220k per week, eclipsing Salah’s current £200k which is the same as Thiago Alcantara’s current wage.
Meanwhile, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Fabinho Tavares both recently re-upped at £180k per while Alisson Becker agreed a new deal at £150k. Typically with Liverpool the reported wages are base wages with significant bonuses—bonuses that thanks to the club’s recent successes have ensured Liverpool have one of the highest wage bills in football.
Nobody would suggest Salah doesn’t deserve to be the club’s highest earner, yet Arsene Wenger’s old club Arsenal are a perfect example of what can happen when you ignore your existing pay structure and hand outlier wages to a player on the cusp of 30.
In Arsenal’s case, Mesut Ozil and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang both stand as stark examples of deals that looked high but perhaps reasonable when signed that the club then quickly grew to regret. Every Liverpool fan would hope Salah’s case would end differently, but it’s a legitimate concern the club has to consider.
Hopefully there’s still a way for the club and player to find common ground, but no matter how good any one player is there’s a point where wages become non-viable for a club like Liverpool that is at least intended to run sustainably rather than as the sportswashing front for a human rights abusing petrostate.
“I would say Salah and Mané, you would not want to lose them,” Wenger added, and certainly there will be nobody at Liverpool who wants to see Salah depart, no matter how it all turns out in in the end. “They became stars with Liverpool and they’re part of that history now.”