Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images.
The Reign of Mohamed Salah
After a false start at Chelsea, the Egyptian football superstar has taken the world by surprise, one record-breaking achievement at a time.
With over 300 career goals in more than 600 professional games, Mohamed Salah has written his name in the history books as one of the finest players to come out of Egypt and, by extension, Africa. Affectionately referred to as The Pharaoh, the nimble-footed magician has etched his memory in folklore thanks to a series of spell-binding performances for Liverpool.
Across a six-year spell, Salah has established himself as the talisman of one of the greatest Liverpool F.C. teams of all time while helping the club to end a 30-year wait for a league title to return to Anfield.
In addition to his record-breaking achievements on Merseyside, Salah has helped propel the Egyptian football national team to an enviable position in African football. In the 12 years since making his senior debut for Egypt, Salah has guided his country back to footballing prominence following a period of obscurity after two political revolutions and the 2012 Port Said Stadium tragedy.
With his picture-perfect smile, charismatic persona, and zest for sporting excellence, Salah has risen to prominence as a totem for football’s best ideals and precepts. Still, the man born in Nagrig, Egypt, has had to spend a significant portion of his life navigating obstacles in the way of his dreams. However, every roadblock has only served as further encouragement to achieve his dream of playing professionally and rising to the pinnacle of the sport he loves.
The Early Years
Mohamed Salah was born on the 15th of June, 1992, in Nagrig, a village near Basyoun, located in the Gharbia Governorate of Egypt. As a child, Salah wasn’t particularly interested in academics. He threw himself instead into football, establishing himself as a talent to watch out for at age seven. Most of the hallmarks of Salah’s game were developed on the streets of Nagrig, where he had to compete against opponents older than him and more physically developed.
By age 13, Salah’s talent was evident and he was scouted by an agent of Al Mokawloon, a team based in Cairo and competing in the Egyptian top division. Agreeing to join Al Mokawloon set the stage for Salah’s career to kick off and formed the basis for the most popular story from his childhood. Due to Nagrig being 82 miles away from Al Mokawloon’s training facilities in the suburbs of Cairo, Salah had to make a grueling three-hour trip to training five-days-a week from age 14.
Additionally, joining the Al Mokawloon youth teams, Salah was originally used as a left-back but after one game where he reportedly wasted five clear-cut chances, he was pushed up to the right-forward position, where he has since made his name.
Breaking Into The Al Mokawloon First Team
Salah’s performances soon impressed Al Mokawloon’s manager, Mohamed Radwan, who promoted him to the first team. He made his debut for the first team on May 3, 2010, coming on as a substitute against El Mansoura. By the 2010/2011 season, Salah had become a regular member of the team even if he wasn’t exactly prolific.
By the time the 2011/2012 season came along, Salah was firmly ensconced in the Al Mokawloon starting line-up, starting every game of the season. But then, the tragic events of the Port Said Stadium riots happened on February 1, 2012, eventually forcing the Egyptian Football Association to cancel the remainder of the domestic season.
Move To Basel
Following the Port Said Stadium riots, Swiss giants, FC Basel, organized a friendly match with the Egyptian under-23 team with a view to seeing Salah perform in person. A second-half brace by Salah, resulting in a 4-3 win for the Egyptians, ensured that Salah was offered a deal to sign with FC Basel on a four-year contract. Problems adapting to a new city and learning a new language did not dissuade the young Egyptian keen to make his mark on European football.
Replacing FC Basel hero, Xherdan Shaqiri, Salah played a starring role throughout the campaign, scoring 10 goals in 50 appearances and helping FC Basel to win the Swiss top-flight championship. Significantly, the club reached the semi-final of the Europa League, losing 5-2 on aggregate to English giants Chelsea despite Salah scoring during one of the ties at Stamford Bridge.
A second season at Basel was cut short when Salah moved to Chelsea in January 2014 after scoring against the English club again in both legs of a Champions League group-stage tie. Despite moving in January, his contributions were enough to secure a medal as Basel headed to a fifth straight league championship at the end of the season.
The Loan Years
During his time at Chelsea, Salah struggled to find his place on the team due to the surplus of wingers, including established attackers like Eden Hazard, Willian, and Oscar being for the wide berths. He, however, scored the sixth goal in a 6-0 win for Chelsea over Arsenal on Arsène Wenger’s thousandth game in charge of the Gunners. One year after his move to Chelsea, Salah transferred on loan to the Italian club, Fiorentina, on an 18-month deal hoping to get a run of games to establish himself. The move to Fiorentina coupled with regular game-time saw Salah hit form and score nine goals in 26 appearances.
At the end of the 2014/2015 season, Fiorentina expected Salah to fulfil his contractual obligations and spend the remaining 12 months of his loan with them. But the Egyptian King had other ideas, rejecting the loan and insisting on a move to their league rivals, AS Roma. After some legal wrangling, the move to AS Roma was completed and Salah got his wish.
Operating as the primary attacking option of the club from the Eternal City, Salah took his game to the next level, scoring 15 goals in 42 appearances in his first season with the Giallorossi. The club took up the option to make his signing permanent at the end of the season for €15 million. Salah rewarded the club for the investment with multiple stellar performances across the season as Roma finished the 2016/2017 season, just four points behind Italian champions, Juventus.
Keen to secure more attacking firepower for his swashbuckling Reds, Liverpool manager, Jürgen Klopp, sanctioned a move for Mohamed Salah from Roma in a deal worth an initial £36.5m fee that could rise to £43m. From his first appearance of the season, Salah went about repaying the huge outlay, scoring in a 3-3 draw with Watford on his Premier League debut. The goals would flow in easily for the Egyptian who formed a fearsome attacking trident with fellow African Sadio Mané, and Brazilian striker Roberto Firmino.
Salah’s first season on Merseyside was an absolute success, as record after record tumbled for the forward who netted 44 times in 52 games. However, a fairytale 2017/2018 Champions League final against Real Madrid was cut short due to a shoulder injury sustained in a tussle with defender, Sergio Ramos. After leaving the pitch, Liverpool lost the game 3-1.
Kicking off where he left off in the previous season, the 2018/2019 season started in imperious form for Salah who inked a new long-term deal with Liverpool. A head-to-head clash for the league championship with Manchester City saw Liverpool end the season in second position in the league. With Salah making huge contributions, Liverpool found redemption in the Champions League. On June 1, 2019, Liverpool beat Tottenham in the Champions League final with Salah opening the score from the penalty spot in the second minute.
More success was on the horizon for Salah in the 2019/2020 season. A quick start to the season meant that even with COVID-19 disrupting the league, Liverpool still won the English Premier League in impressive form, bringing back a league title to Merseyside for the first time in 30 years with Salah scoring 19 league goals.
Salah completed domestic football with Liverpool in the 2021/2022 season after winning the FA Cup and League Cup to top up another phenomenal personal campaign. He also won both the top scorer award (jointly shared with Heung-min Son) and the top playmaker award in the league. A lull in form has made the 2022/2023 season difficult for Liverpool who are out of contention for all trophies.
But Salah has kept up his remarkable scoring form, leading Liverpool to a spectacular 7-0 drubbing of their perennial rivals, Manchester United, in March 2023. Scoring two goals and recording two assists in an exceptional performance, Salah passed Kop legend, Robbie Fowler, putting him in a good position to challenge for Liverpool’s all-time leading Premier League goalscorer.
On October 12, 2022, Salah made more history after scoring the fastest hat trick in UEFA Champions League history against Rangers, completing his treble in six minutes and twelve seconds.
Widely seen as a symbol of national pride in Egypt, Salah has been the most popular Egyptian footballer for close to a decade. His frontline status has often meant that he has had to shoulder the weight of expectation from the North African country’s football-mad fans. He made his debut for the national team against Sierra Leone in September 2011 and has since then scored 51 goals in 89 appearances for the national team.
Salah also led the Egyptian national team to two African Cup of Nations finals in 2017 and 2021, narrowly falling at the final hurdle despite impressive personal showings.
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