The Liverpool forward struck his 11th and 12th goals of the season in the win at Atletico Madrid on Tuesday, and he’s got personal and team awards in his sights
Everyone was talking about Mohamed Salah on Tuesday night.
Everyone is talking about him most nights at the moment.
His brace at Atletico Madrid – and it was a brace, despite the early confusion over James Milner getting a touch to his shot or not – means that he has now scored more goals than he has played games for Liverpool this season. 12 in 11. At least one goal in each of his last nine matches.
It is startling stuff.
And the speed with which he is running up these numbers seems to have caught some by surprise.
Some, but not all.
“He’s top, top class and he’s certainly the best striker at the moment in the world because he scores goals that nobody else can score,” was Arsene Wenger’s take on it as he worked as a pundit for beIN Sports on Tuesday evening.
“You have to play street football to dribble past people like that in a short space. He’s full of confidence and he’s creative.
“Overall, I believe as well that he is very intelligent because the sign of players that always improve is the intelligence.”
It’s all in the head then, says Wenger. And he seems to be right.
The speed with which Salah has taken his game up several notches really has been something to behold, and right now he has a clarity of mind that only a select few footballers can ever muster.
How else would you explain the series of sky blue and yellow-black shirted players he’s left on the ground, beaten and confused, when he’s scored goals in his last two Premier League matches? And then if he hadn’t scored those two goal of the season contenders then we’d be talking about his two magical assists for Sadio Mane in the same games.
Salah is playing with a laser-guided focus, and an outright goal of being considered as the best footballer in the world, beyond question.
Liverpool FC via Getty Images)
Wenger and many others feel there already no question as to Salah’s status, be he looks as though he won’t rest until the whole world accepts that he is the best one among them at playing this game. The Ballon d’Or for this year is surely gone, but there is always next.
We are already, if we’re all honest with ourselves about it, edging out of the Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo era, even if those two modern world wonders can still exert their experience, their authority and their brilliance on matches.
They have always done so in different ways, but they are changing again as they get older, their actions are that little more pronounced and that little bit shorter. The impact is still sharp and thrilling, but it is also fleeting.
With Salah you get more of the build-up, and the anticipation of just what he is about to do and how incredible it will be, all with the knowledge that he knows exactly what you’re about to witness.
Very few footballers ever get to that level, and none of them get there without a fierce determination and a clarity of thought.
Salah’s teammates are seeing it too, with Milner lauding the Egyptian’s mental strength as he converted the penalty which won the game at the Wanda Metropolitano – at the same end where he scored in the Champions League final.
“We practice that and getting in the right mindset, shutting everything else out,” said the Reds midfielder after the game.
“Every penalty you take, it’s always going to be like that, so you’ve got to shut everything out.
“Obviously there is a lot going on but just focus on what you are going to do, and I’m sure he had good memories of taking a penalty at that end as well, so that probably helped.”
That Champions League triumph in 2019 will be ranked by Salah as his greatest club achievement to date, but he’ll know that in the strive for personal accolades he can pick up even more team awards. He’ll have to. That’s what they all do.
He’ll have those targets in his mind’s eye though, you can be sure of that.
And when Salah eyes a target at the moment, he doesn’t miss.