Jurgen Klopp lauds Mo Salah after goal v Man City
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Mohamed Salah has started the season in blistering form with nine goals in as many games and three assists. The focus is now turning to how the Egyptian’s contract talks with Liverpool will pan out – but there are worrying signs the Reds could lose their talismanic attacker.
Salah has been an overwhelming success since arriving at Anfield from Roma four years ago for around £37million, providing 134 goals and 50 assists in just 212 appearances and winning the Premier League and Champions League.
No player has a better goals to game ratio for Liverpool than Salah in the post-war era and he is the quickest player in the club’s history to score 100 league goals.
Yet the 29-year-old’s current deal expires in 2023 and as it stands the Merseyside club will have to sell him next summer at below his true market value or lose him for free 12 months later.
Negotiations are thought to be ongoing between Liverpool and Salah’s representatives regarding an extension but as of yet no agreement is forthcoming.
To keep Salah Liverpool will surely have to upgrade his salary to £300,000 a week, which would represent a 33 per cent pay rise.
But the club do not like handing out lucrative extensions to players approaching their 30s, as shown with Gini Wijnaldum a year ago. Liverpool preferred to lose the Dutchman for nothing despite his flawless injury record suggesting he had several years left in him at his peak level.
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Jurgen Klopp himself has given his backing to a new long-term deal for Salah, saying recently that he “has all the things you need” to play into his mid-30s. But the German does not always get his way – he also wanted to keep Wijnaldum.
And the previous actions of Liverpool owners Fenway Sports Group in the world of Major League Baseball, with FSG also owning nine-time world champions the Boston Red Sox, are a particular cause for concern.
Last year the Red Sox couldn’t agree a new deal with right fielder Mookie Betts amid worries that handing the standout Nashville native a lucrative new deal would see the wage budget spiral out of control.
Five-time All Star Betts instead joined the Los Angeles Dodgers who then went on to rule supreme for the first time since 1988. He was a year younger (28) than Salah is now (29) at the time.
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The defending champions Dodgers are once again big favourites to be triumphant in this year’s playoffs, too.
Of course broader context must be applied and baseball’s luxury tax rules were a factor in Betts’ Fenway Park exit – but only because they ill-advisedly spent money elsewhere.
Ultimately the Red Sox traded away the player to get assets in return, rather than potentially lose him as a free agent a year later.
“We cannot shy away from tough decisions required to aggressively compete for the World Series. That’s what led to this trade,” owner John W Henry stated in February 2020, hailing the “substantial young talent” they acquired in return.
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Maybe Liverpool might be about to make a similarly tough decision in the summer of 2022 too. They are thought to be worried that putting Salah on significantly higher wages than his team-mates could create disharmony in the dressing room and lead to financial problems.
Liverpool are one of the shrewdest-operating clubs in the game and might think, similarly to the Red Sox with Betts, that offloading Salah and investing into a younger asset who can blossom into his replacement makes more sense.
The Reds’ ownership really ought to avoid cost-cutting exercises however if they want to get the most out of Klopp before he leaves in 2024, particularly when talking about a player of Salah’s ability.
If the Egypt international can maintain the form he has produced in his four seasons so far at Liverpool – and everything suggests he can given his physical condition and psychological drive – keeping him could very well be the biggest difference between Klopp winning more major honours before he leaves or walking away after a trophyless final few years like he did at Borussia Dortmund.
Signing a replacement capable of replicating Salah’s output at a low cost in terms of a fee and wage would be an immensely difficult task even for Michael Edwards and Liverpool’s famed recruitment team. Particularly if they wanted to see a return on that productivity in the short term.
Rather, Liverpool’s hierarchy must accept that to maintain their level and to ensure Klopp has the best possible chance of success in his final three years at the club, the controlled wage structure must be loosened and Salah – one of the very best in the world – must be rewarded for his contributions.
Liverpool’s squad are always full of praise for Salah and so surely would be willing to accept being paid less than their team-mate. They wouldn’t be complaining if he helps deliver them another Premier League or Champions League trophy to lift aloft.
With Betts and the Red Sox, FSG have seen one of their biggest names move to a rival and enjoy huge success. They must avoid allowing Salah and Liverpool to make the same mistake.
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