LONDON: Mo Salah was an unknown quantity when he returned to English football last summer with Liverpool. He had disappointed in a half-season at Chelsea before being shipped off to Roma and Fiorentina. Now he is unrecognisable.
The £34m Egyptian is having such an explosive effect on the Premier League that he is now even rivalling Kevin de Bruyne, mastermind of Manchester City’s magical campaign, for the end-of-season top player prizes.
Certainly Salah will be hailed as the league’s leading marksman. On Saturday, in a 5-0 demolition of Watford, Salah scored four goals and created another. It was his most remarkable display of even his outstanding season. This season he has scored 28 goals in the Premier League and 36 in 41 games in all competitions.
Manager Jurgen Klopp said: “He has a greed to score. He loves scoring goals. It’s his thing. After scoring four he was still sprinting to the final whistle.
“The conditions were very difficult. Everyone suffered but not Mo. He was exceptional, he was special and he was outstanding. Performances like that are why we come into football. Obviously, I was pleased about the result, but also the performance. Look at Sadio Mane as well, look how cool he was on the ball, look how mature he was.”
Salah displayed class all through the afternoon. Even after the match, clutching the match ball, he was relaxed enough to pause and sign autographs for youngsters on the way to the players’ tunnel. A big smile lit up his face.
He said: “I couldn’t have reached this number of goals without my team-mates and I’d like to thank them. Each game we want three points but every game I also want to score.”
Liverpool are not certain to qualify for the Champions League next season so Klopp could not afford to take any chances with team selection. In the event Watford offered little opposition.
Salah scored a superb angled first goal after only four minutes to claim his 25th Liverpool league goal. By the end of the evening he was on 28, four clear of Tottenham’s inuury-sidelined Harry Kane and seven more than Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero.
Roberto Firmino, Mane and Salah, in this combined form, will present a real threat to Manchester City in the quarter-finals of the Champions League, while Georgino Wijnaldum, Jordan Henderson and James Milner provided urgency in support from midfield.
Mane and Andrew Robertson created a second goal for Salah just before half-time and the Egyptian provided a delightful third goal for Firmino after the interval. Salah completed his hat-trick with a shot from within a forest of players and grabbed his fourth after a Danny Ings shot was only parried by keeper Orestis Karnezis.
At the final whistle Salah sought out Karnezis again and told him: “I’m sorry.” Right now he just cannot help scoring goals.