Liverpool’s Salah dilemma: Should they let him go?
On Deadline Day, The Athletic’s David Ornstein reported that Liverpool had rejected Al Ittihad’s £150m verbal approach for Mohamed Salah.
Ornstein further reported that the Saudi club are still “expected to maintain a strong interest.”
This is the biggest approach made by a Saudi Arabian side this summer, even with the recruitment of players like Karim Benzema and Neymar jr. With the window still yet to close for Saudi sides, the Egyptian winger’s future is still not concrete.
There are also rumours that the club may improve their offer for Salah soon. With the question still unanswered, we will be delving into arguments both for and against the departure of Liverpool’s top scorer in the Premier League era.
Salah’s squad importance
Salah has been a fixture in Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool since signing in 2017.
He has contributed 139 league goals and 60 assists in seven seasons for the Reds. This accompanies three Golden Boots, one Playmaker of the Season, and one Premier League Player of the Season.
In terms of silverware, he has certainly won it all at Anfield. He has won every domestic trophy available in England, in addition to the Champions League, Super Cup, and Club World Cup.
His importance to Liverpool is evident – being recently promoted to the club’s leadership group by Klopp. At the age of 31, he is one of the most senior players at the club, and will likely assume more responsibilities with the departure of Jordan Henderson and James Milner. He has certainly not shied away from that this season, with goal contributions in all of Liverpool’s game thus far.
It is clear to see that Salah is still valued highly within the squad, and he will be an important member of any trophy challenges Liverpool partake in this season. As such, his ‘not for sale’ label is most likely on the grounds of the winger being ‘irreplaceable’.
There seems to be a belief that there are still years of high level performances to extract from him. He also has two years left on his current deal.
From a Liverpool perspective, it seems unwise to sell the player given his importance, and ability compared to alternatives.
Does money talk?
It is hard to ignore that £150m is a staggering sum for a 31 year old. This offer could even rise, going forward.
From reports, a contract offer could also be in place to make Salah the highest paid player in the Saudi Professional League.
From an outside perspective, it seems incredulous that such an offer could be rejected – on the player’s side, it is also surprising to see a player stay so committed in an age where money often takes priority in football.
If Salah were to depart, the Reds would certainly not be strapped for cash. They could distribute funds evenly to continue refurbishing a side which looks in need of a slight rebuild. Most notably, they could look to add defensive reinforcements – with backup for Trent Alexander-Arnold in particular.
Klopp could also look to add greater depth in the middle of his defence, too. There is still an argument over whether a ‘traditional six’ is still needed at Anfield, so this could be sorted if needs be.
The most pressing point surrounding this, however, is how they would look to replace Salah. Besides young starlets Harvey Elliott and Ben Doak, Liverpool have a lack of depth at right wing. If he was to be sold, there are certainly players that could fill in on the right, but not to the effect of the Egyptian. This could ultimately hinder performances for the club, as they look to compete on three fronts until January.
In terms of replacing Salah himself, the winger market is seemingly barren at present. This is even more the case if they were to try and directly replace the caliber of their number 11.
Recently, Paul Merson (via http://skysports.com) suggested that Liverpool should look to recruit Arsenal star Bukayo Saka to replace the ageing winger. However, the chances of this being possible would be incredibly slim, particularly in January.
With a lack of options, and his impact being more valuable than the fee offered, the club’s stance is understandable.
What would Salah bring to Saudi Arabian football?
Saudi Arabia and the PIF’s mission is nothing short of remarkable.
In their bid to host upcoming tournaments, they have recruited some of the most well-known players across the globe. Karim Benzema, Neymar jr, N’golo Kante, and Riyad Mahrez top a star studded list of signings thus far.
There has also been a focus on players of Muslim faith, with many of the aforementioned players evidencing this. Sadio Mane, Edouard Mendy, and Kalidou Koulibaly are among other Muslim players of note.
As such, Salah certainly fits the bill for the Saudi Pro League. Not only is he one of the most notable players in world football, but he still has a case to be one of the best. He is also of Muslim faith, making him the perfect candidate as one of the faces of the league.
Signing Salah, who is still yet to be nearing the end of his career, would be a huge statement of intent.
However, this would be a signing that highlights an already distinct disparity within the league. Al Ittihad, Al Nassr, Al Ahli, and Al Hilal are the four clubs owned by the PIF. They have also received the most investment and, as a result, the financial gulf between them and the rest of the league is substantial.
Questions can be raised over how competitive the league will be. While everything seems to be running smoothly so far, will there be long term impacts of players snubbing the league due to these issues?
With all things considered, it would be the best option for Liverpool to retain Salah. An attempt to replace Salah with a younger player would, at present, not be worth the hassle.
His importance to the team is far more valuable right now than any fee the club would recoup, especially with trophies to compete for. While a rebuild could be aided with such money, the opportunity cost of losing him is clearly deemed as too vast to consider.
If the club were to consider his sale, they would be best to do so in the next summer window or beyond. This would still attract a high fee, in addition to potential Champions League money he may help the club gain. There would also be time to replace him in the market.
On the other side of the coin, the PIF will of course keep pushing to sign the Egyptian. Despite concerns over competitiveness, he is THE ideal signing to bolster the league’s reform.
He offers an elite profile of player, as well as the potential to be an ambassador for the country. This would be important for any bids to host World Cups.
There is also the upside that another player of such a high quality signing will attract more players in the future, adding to the domino effect of the league strengthening even further.