(Reuters) – Mohamed Salah has already won the Champions League and secured World Cup qualification for his country but an imminent Premier League title with Liverpool will cement his legacy at the age of 28.
The Egypt international, who celebrates his birthday on Monday, has again been their leading goalscorer this season (16) as the Reds march toward a first championship in 30 years.
Yet it is his desire constantly to improve that is the forward’s most significant asset. His last Premier League outing against Bournemouth in early March saw him net a 70th goal in his 100th league match, all as a result of improved focus.
“I started working more on my mentality,” he told Liverpool’s website.
“Also, practising shooting and finishing all the time; and not just shooting and finishing, also playing the game in different positions, being involved more inside than outside. A lot of things have improved because there is a lot of practice behind that.”
Salah was always a creative talent before his move to Liverpool in mid-2017 but there is little doubt his game is significantly more devastating since the transfer from AS Roma.
The fruit of that labor is to be confirmed later this month when the league resumes after the COVID-19 lockdown with Liverpool possibly crowned champions as early as June 21, when they take on neighbours Everton.
It will be another milestone for Salah on a journey that began in humble surrounds in Nagrig, a village some 130km north of Cairo.
His teenage potential won him an invitation to train at Arab Contractors, but required lengthy and tedious bus journeys back and forth to the Egyptian capital before he was offered a place in their academy.
He was a few weeks shy of his 18th birthday when he debuted and got a major break playing a friendly against Basel, who immediately signed him on a four-year contract as his speed, explosiveness and deadly left foot bowled them over.
Salah competed in both the Europa League and Champions League with the Swiss and after scoring three times against Chelsea, moved to Stamford Bridge.
There his progression stalled under then-coach Jose Mourinho, but spells at Fiorentina and Roma in Italy continued his upwards trajectory, leading Liverpool to break their transfer record to buy him in 2017 for 37 million pounds ($46.54 million).
By the end of his first season, Salah had scored 32 goals in the league – a record for a 38-game Premier League campaign. He had also calmly netted the stoppage-time penalty that qualified Egypt for the World Cup in Russia after an absence of 28 years, elevating him as the country’s talisman.
A shoulder injury early in the 2018 Champions League final meant, however, a poor World Cup for Salah. Yet he atoned last year when Liverpool beat Tottenham Hotspur to be crowned European champions – scoring the final’s early opener.
Now as English football restarts, the Egyptian sits on the cusp of a prize that will elevate his profile even further – particularly as he will become the first from his country to lift the Premier League trophy.
Editing by Christian Radnedge