Most Liverpool fans thought Mohamed Salah would be good when Liverpool signed him last summer from Roma in a £38M deal—even if some weren’t entirely sure at the time whether that was a fee that represented especially good value in a market that hadn’t yet seen PSG trigger Neymar’s release clause and send transfer inflation into the stratosphere.
It was clear, though, that based on the number he’d put up at Roma the year before he wasn’t the same player who struggled to find a place in Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea side. This was the finished product, or at least something not far off it: a hard-working winger with a nose for goal and tendency to cut inside to score from areas typically reserved for strikers.
Away from English football’s obsessive coverage, Salah had grown and thrived as both provider and poacher, and in his last season at Roma he tallied 19 goals and 15 assists in all competitions—good for a goal or assist every 93 minutes the Egyptian star was on the pitch. For a player in any of Europe’s top leagues, that’s an impressive attacking return.
Given that scoring record, and given Liverpool knew they needed a scoring winger to compliment false nine Roberto Firmino, we could be fairly certain he would be good at Liverpool. Nobody could honestly say that they knew he’d be this good. That he’d score 40 in 45 while adding 13 helpers, a goal or assist every 67 minutes he’s been on the pitch.
To put that in a little bit of context, a goal or assist every 67 minutes is the same as what Cristiano Ronaldo has done this season for Real Madrid. And it’s better than Lionel Messi’s goal or assist every 72 minutes. It’s a return that sets out Mohamed Salah as not just a star but a true global superstar and, at worst, the third best attacker in the game on form.
To put just how good a season he’s had in a Liverpool context, the club’s all-time top scorer is Ian Rush. In his best year at Anfield, Rush scored 47 times—but did it in 65 appearances, a strike rate well behind Salah’s. Luis Suarez, in the year he earned his move to Barcelona, got 31 in 37 games. Fernando Torres, in his best Liverpool season, had 33 in 46.
In a European context, it’s a return on par with Messi and Ronaldo. In a Liverpool context, it’s a historically exceptional scoring season. And it looks set to lead to a few records for Salah along the way, as with five games to go he’s just one behind Saurez, Alan Shearer, and Cristiano Ronaldo, who share the record for most goals in a 38-game season with 31.
That’s an awful lot a lot of numbers to digest. But, however you choose come at it all, what those numbers add up to seems increasingly clear: Mohamed Salah is having one of the all-time great goal-scoring seasons in the modern game and is putting up the kind of numbers that set him out as a player who is, right now, one of the game’s top three attackers.
There’s Cristiano Ronaldo, there’s Lionel Messi, and there’s Mohamed Salah. And if Salah can deliver more than the other two the rest of the way in the Champions League this season with Liverpool—a competition Messi is already out of—and then at the World Cup with Egypt in the summer, the order of that trio will very much be up for debate.
We knew Salah would be good when Liverpool signed him—or at least the signs were there that he very much should be. We didn’t know he’d be Ballon d’Or good.