Mohamed Salah's new deal promises exciting era at Liverpool

Egyptian striker and manager Jurgen Klopp both have points to prove after agreeing eye-watering contract

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Mohamed Salah has a point to prove. So does Jurgen Klopp. The Egyptian’s three-year contract extension at Anfield gives both men a significantly better chance of hitting their targets next season.

In May, Liverpool emerged from a remarkable campaign after enduring a disappointing climax to the season. Despite winning both domestic cups, they were unable to catch Manchester City in the Premier League title race and lost the Champions League final 1-0 to Real Madrid on a fraught night in Paris.

After that defeat, Jurgen Klopp radiated defiance and ambition. The German told fans to book their hotels in Istanbul, the site of European football’s showpiece game in 2023. It was a bold statement of intent.

The Liverpool manager has many strengths but among his greatest attributes is his ability to inspire belief in players and supporters. The question that hung over Anfield was how the uncertainty over Salah’s future would affect the mood at the club. That doubt has been swept away with the 30-year-old’s new deal.

The headline numbers about Salah’s pay rise are eye-watering: £400,000 per week makes him the biggest earner in the Premier League. This figure is a little misleading. The basic salary is nearer £300,000 and the contract is heavy with incentives. To maximise his earning power, Salah needs to score plenty of goals and win the biggest trophies. That is exactly what Klopp wants.

Last season the forward hit the back of the net 31 times but there was a perception that he did not recapture his best form after returning from the Africa Cup of Nations in February. Those suggestions stung, as did Salah’s failure to score in three finals. Paris was particularly disappointing, although Thibaut Courtois’s man-of-the-match performance for Real defined the game rather than sloppy finishing by Salah.

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Fenway Sports Group thought long and hard about the merits of giving Salah an extension. The Americans do not like betting big money on players in their 30s. Yet the danger of allowing the striker to run down his contract and leave on a free transfer next summer threw up a number of nightmare possibilities.

The first half of the new season would have been overshadowed by speculation about the Liverpool talisman’s future. Come January, he would have been able to agree a deal with a new club. In the worst-case scenario, this could have been a Premier League rival. No one at Anfield fancied seeing a motivated Salah wearing a Chelsea or Manchester City shirt.

There is an element of risk in handing a 30-year-old an extra three years. Salah’s legs will be tested, particularly in the first half of the season when Liverpool will play on average every 3.7 days – and that is budgeting for just one League Cup tie. Klopp has options up front despite the departure of Sadio Mane to Bayern Munich. The addition of Darwin Nunez from Benfica will help fill the vacuum left by the Senegalese but regardless of the manager’s ability to rotate the front three, the burden of goalscoring will likely fall on Salah.

That is something he will relish. In his five years on Merseyside, Salah has notched 156 times. That places him ninth on the list of prolific Liverpool strikers but the more telling statistic is the Egyptian’s strike-rate. His goals-to-minutes ratio is the best in the club’s history.

It sometimes seems that other members of Klopp’s side – Alisson Becker, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Virgil van Dijk and even Mane – get more love than Salah. Yet the modern era of success at Anfield has been predicated on the forward’s goals. For Klopp to achieve his aims over the coming seasons, the German will need his primary goalscorer to keep hitting the heights.

Expect Salah to start the season fast. He will get a break during the World Cup because Egypt did not qualify and should resume the campaign in December after benefiting from a month of rest. He will regret missing out on Qatar but his absence will work in Liverpool’s favour.

Klopp has his weapon of choice for the next three years and Salah is as ambitious as his manager. Exciting times lie ahead for the Kop.

Updated: July 05, 2022, 10:48 AM
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