Everywhere you looked were gloomy faces. Heads trembled, curses were muttered, but the undeniable emotion at the final whistle was disappointment – and none illustrated it more than Europe’s current number one player.
The man to whom that title belongs is Mohamed Salah. The Egyptian king of Liverpool rushed to the tunnel as Anfield caught his breath, lost in thought about how his team had won a magnificent football game twice, only to leave with a point.
This is Salah in a nutshell. At Brentford, he had racked up 100 League goals for the club in the third fastest time eight days earlier, but his team-mates were aware that they were getting close to him in the dressing room afterwards, as he had two golden chances to win the match. winning was wasted.
Mohamed Salah (left) propelled Liverpool back to the lead in their 2-2 draw with Manchester City
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp (right) will be desperate to hold onto the exceptional frontman
“We can’t be too hard on him because he’s tough on himself,” said Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson. “He’s been outrageous since he got here. The numbers he has to get are unbelievable. He dedicates his life to the game, makes sure he recovers and lives his life the right way and he gets his rewards.”
Not necessary. Salah’s contract is set to expire in June 2023. It’s not panic stations at the moment, but it seems remarkable that Liverpool would put themselves in a position where one of the best ever playing for the club – because that’s what he is – could be for leave nothing.
If phrases like ‘Europe’s number one player’ and ‘one of the best to play at Anfield’ have raised your eyebrows, we need to be absolutely clear here: this is no exaggeration. Salah has done some remarkable things in his four seasons at Anfield, but this season his performance has improved again.
Salah is currently on a streak of nine goals in seven games. The only time he didn’t score (August 21 in a 2-0 win over Burnley), he was the best player on the pitch and was only denied a goal through VAR intervention. This is finishing of the highest level.
Salah has scored nine goals in seven games – and even when he didn’t score, he was inspired
If numbers had been passed to you regarding Robert Lewandowski or Erling Haaland or Lionel Messi, you would greet them with a reverent nod of the head, but Salah, heaven knows why, doesn’t evoke the same feelings.
Is it because he used to go down too easily? Possibly. But even that propensity to be theatrical in the hope of getting punishments has so far been eradicated in this campaign. He now also goes back to help his defense, another rough edge in his game that has been ironed out.
So yes, Salah is the best in Europe at the moment. Without him there would be no title race and his side would have been well beaten by Manchester City, who are in the better shape of these championship rivals. Hard as it was for Liverpool to swallow, it would have been a travesty if Pep Guardiola and his company had returned across the M62 without any evidence of their efforts.
The reason they had to fight so hard was because Salah – especially in the second half – played football that was out of this world. His assist to Sadio Mane for the goal that opened the scoring invited you to make comparisons to Messi (look the small touch and the body swerve again), but the better was to come.
Liverpool supremo John Henry (center) would do well to oversee a huge new contract for Salah
It was the 76th minute, to be exact. On the same side of the stadium in February 2018, Salah tied up the Tottenham defense after a dribble in the area preceded a flawless right-footed finish, but what he did here was extraordinary.
Joao Cancelo, Phil Foden, Aymeric Laporte and Bernardo Silva all looked as if they’d realized their wallets had been stolen by a pickpocket when Salah shuffled his feet, changed direction, then hit a drive past Ederson that turned into the far corner buzzes.
Everywhere in the stadium the eyes were wide with disbelief. Only the best of the best produces like this when the stakes are so high and how Salah produces. With every goal and achievement of this standard, the negotiation gets a little more exciting.
City equalized but Liverpool are title contenders again with the help of Salah’s outstanding record
Fenway Sports Group has in the past cut their clothing accordingly, with the mantra that they will spend what they earn but never go out of business themselves. They ran in a financial wasteland for 11 years and have no intention of ever jeopardizing the future with expensive deals.
But if Liverpool wanted to replace Salah, what would it cost them? More money than they would ever pay on a transfer fee. They cannot be accused of thrift as they completed a string of major contract extensions this summer, but they should be prepared to go big again.
Salah has done enough with his golden boots to earn the biggest contract in Liverpool’s history. It’s now up to the men balancing the books to make it happen. Letting someone else take advantage of his genius would be sabotage.