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Anatomy of a Stalled Transfer: Mohamed Salah to Liverpool

Liverpool fans are getting nervous. They shouldn’t be.

AS Roma v US Sassuolo - Serie A Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

Mohammed Salah to Liverpool was a done deal just a few days ago. Liverpool had made a £28M bid and though it had been rejected by Roma, they were expected to settle on a fee in the neighbourhood of £35 and, with Salah having already agreed personal terms with the club, to push it over the line in short order.

Then came whispers that a second offer wasn’t coming, that Liverpool were considering Lazio’s Keita Baladé, that Roma weren’t willing to budge at all on their £43M asking price. Today, Sporting Lisbon winger Gelson Martins has appeared out of nowhere as the next supposed winger transfer target in place of Salah.

It’s perhaps easy to be uneasy, as a Liverpool fan, given how often the club have seemed to dither, to try to negotiate down to the last penny only to then lose a player they had seemed certain of signing. In this case, though, fans should probably take a deep breath. They should feel confident that, in the end, Salah will arrive.

Exhibit A in that is that Roma, put simply, need to sell. Things are looking bad for the Giallorossi on the FFP front for the current financial period, and they desperately need a major sale before the end of June—before the transfer window even officially opens—to balance their books and avoid likely UEFA punishment.

Roma are a motivated seller, and depending on how the deal was structured, even Liverpool’s initial £28M offer could be enough to balance the books for them. If another high value player was set to be sold, or if Salah himself was in wide demand, it might change the equation. Right now, though, neither of those things are true.

Liverpool’s interest in Salah represents Roma’s best—and perhaps even only—chance of balancing the books. And we’re getting awfully late for another club to swoop in and offer Roma what they need, relieving the pressure on them to sell—or giving them significantly more for Salah than Liverpool would be willing to.

That brings us to Exhibit B, a lack of other serious suitors. Salah, for all the goals he scored last season, wouldn’t fit at either Manchester City or at Tottenham. He wouldn’t be likely to consider a Chelsea return or a reunion with José Mourinho. He’s not at a level that would attract Bayern or Barcelona or Real Madrid.

That leaves Arsenal, potentially, as a reasonable alternative. A club big enough to just maybe change Salah’s mind on where he wants to end up next season while having the financial wherewithal to pay Roma what they need and want. That, then, is a very, very short list. And as yet there has been no sign of any Arsenal interest.

Even if there was—and it wouldn’t be surprising to hear rumours of interest out of Italy this week given they would be in Roma’s interest—with a relationship already established with the player, with Champions League football and Jürgen Klopp on offer, Liverpool would have to feel confident in winning the day.

Roma need to sell. Liverpool are the only serious suitor. It would be financially reckless in the circumstance for the English club to not push for a better deal. In the meantime, there will be leaks from the Liverpool end of interest in other players—signals to Roma that they might miss out on their best chance to balance the books.

There may also, in the coming days, be rumours from the Roma end of Arsenal interest—at least if Roma have done their homework; if they haven’t it will be rumours of City or Chelsea interest. And there will be papers in Portugal and perhaps elsewhere who sense the opportunity to feed their own stories into the mix.

In the end, though, no matter the rumours or the reports or the posturing, if Salah is currently Liverpool’s top wing target—and all signs still point to him being that—he will end up at Anfield. In the meantime, fans will just have to try to stay calm, knowing the club are doing the right thing pushing for the best deal.

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