For much of the past year, the question of whether Mohamed Salah will extend his contract at Anfield beyond the summer of 2023 and what will happen if he doesn’t has been a story that has regularly pushed its way to the front of the Liverpool news queue.
There have been moments a new deal has looked likely. Times when a sale in the summer of 2022 has appeared possible. Occasions when the player running his contract down and departing on a free in 2023 has seemed the most likely of all the possibilities.
Today, it’s the latter thanks to a story in The Athletic from James Pearce that at the least has the appearance of being based on information supplied by the player’s agent. There’s a twist this time, though: if he runs down his deal, Salah wants to stay in England.
According to the story, Salah’s wage demands would make him the sixth best paid player in football, behind the likes of Messi and Mbappe but well ahead of current Liverpool top earner Virgil van Dijk after the defender signed a new deal signed last summer.
Whether or not wages that would make him the sixth best paid player on the planet are something a club like Liverpool that isn’t bankrolled by a human rights abusing petrostate can afford, especially for a player entering his 30s, is a worthwhile talking point.
More controversial, though, will be Pearce’s suggestion that if Salah runs down his deal he would look to stay in the Premier League. Whether it’s information that’s intended to be read as a threat or not, it’s difficult not to take it that way given the alternatives.
There’s Manchester City who could afford big wages usually don’t overpay for older players. There’s Chelsea who might try to make statement under new owners. There’s Man United with a recent history of failure on the pitch. And there’s nouveau riche Newcastle.
For sporting purposes, it’s probably safe to rule out the latter two. Which means that Salah or his people feeding information to a reporter that he would look to stay in England if he doesn’t extend with Liverpool at least looks a threat to join City or Chelsea in 2023.
It almost seems a story designed to turn fans against Salah, which is strange given it seems to be coming from the player’s side. It’s worth remembering, though, that this wouldn’t be the first time Salah’s representation has strained the his relationship with fans.
Regardless a disappointing return in the latter stages of 2021-22, Salah is one of the game’s top players and deserves to be paid like it. Liverpool are amongst the richest clubs but do have financial limitations if they want to maintain long-term competitiveness.
The hope for the overwhelming majority of fans will be that there’s a compromise that can satisfy both sides, but using public threats to join City or Chelsea in 2023 as a negotiating tactic wildly misunderstands that for Liverpool fans the club always comes first.