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What Mohamed Salah's new deal means for Liverpool
The Egyptian's contract extension is Liverpool's most important piece of business this summer.
I’ll be honest. Prior to Friday afternoon, I had reached a place of acceptance around next season being Mohamed Salah’s last in a Liverpool shirt. The fact that contract negotiations had been ongoing for such a long time, seemingly without getting much closer to a compromise, was ominous. With each passing month, it felt increasingly unlikely that a solution would be reached.
Given Salah’s statement that he would definitely be staying put this summer, and with Sadio Mane moving to Bayern Munich, the possibility of Liverpool trying to cash in was never really on the table. Instead, the likeliest scenario was that Salah would see out his final year and leave as a free agent next summer to a club prepared to pay him what he feels he deserves. In that eventuality, the best case would be Salah going abroad, most likely to either Barcelona, Real Madrid or Paris Saint-Germain; the nightmare outcome would be Man City or Chelsea making him an offer he couldn’t refuse, and having to see him provide constant reminders of what Liverpool had lost.
So, when the announcement dropped entirely out of the blue, after a couple of hours during which Salah’s notoriously attention-seeking agent had sent Liverpool Twitter into a state of collective meltdown off the back of his latest cryptic emoji post, I was just as surprised as I was thrilled. This time, as it turned out, Ramy Abbas had created an online frenzy for the right reason – it was all a set-up, designed to garner maximum curiosity and engagement once the official club account directly quote-tweeted him in response, just moments before revealing the news of Salah’s new deal.
Supporters of opposition clubs can dress it up all they like, and Gary Neville can try to convince himself that Liverpool have been ‘played’ in this saga, but the reality is this: Liverpool have tied down one of the greatest players in the club’s history, their most reliable goal scorer, one of the best players the Premier League has ever seen, one of the top five players on the planet, until 2025.
Just as significant is the fact that Salah has decided that this is where he wants to see out the peak years of his career, which says everything about the confidence he has in Liverpool’s ability to compete for major honours in seasons to come. He could’ve chosen to go almost anywhere, and for considerably more money, too – but clearly he feels Liverpool is the best place to be.
If any player deserves to become the highest-paid in the club’s history, it’s him. A total of 214 goals and assists in 252 appearances across five seasons, in which he has been an absolutely integral part of a Liverpool side that has scooped up every trophy there is to win, is a staggering return. Over this time, he has become a global superstar off the pitch as well as one of the very best on it. For the first half of last season, prior to leaving for AFCON in January, he was arguably the best in the world. His levels noticeably dipped post-AFCON, but his pedigree speaks for itself at this point.
Of course, £350,000 per week is an eye-watering amount of money in comparison to what the vast, vast majority of the population earn, but for the industry Salah works in, and the level he’s at relative to his peers, it’s by no means an unreasonable amount for him to be asking for. The issue Liverpool have had up until now is that they’ve been buying players like Salah and Mane at a time when they were very good players with the potential for greatness, but with plenty of scope for development. Throughout their Liverpool careers, they made that transition into becoming genuinely world class.
Liverpool’s carefully managed wage structure and exceptional recruitment has been essential to their progress under Jürgen Klopp, but at some point, the strategy needed to be tweaked to reflect the level that the club is at today. To keep hold of players of Salah’s calibre, Liverpool need to show they’re willing to pay them what they’re worth in the current market – or else, accept the fact that once a player reaches a certain level, you have to let them leave because you won’t meet their wage demands.
The idea that paying Salah £350,000 a week will somehow upset the dressing room and cause his teammates to start asking for the same kind of money just doesn’t make sense. This Liverpool squad surely recognises that Salah is a rare phenomenon whose continued presence massively enhances the team’s chances of winning more trophies in seasons ahead. Indeed, one of the first replies to the contract announcement on Twitter was Virgil van Dijk giving his resounding seal of approval. In truth, the players will probably be just as ecstatic as the rest of us that Salah is going nowhere.
Had Liverpool allowed Salah to leave, what kind of message would it have sent out to other players in the squad? That once you reach a certain level of greatness, you need to go elsewhere to earn the kind of wages that reflect your ability? What would it have said to supporters? That in a few years’ time, if they develop as we all hope and expect, Luis Diaz and/or Darwin Nunez will most likely go to Real Madrid because Liverpool can’t match their ambition?
Being a super club is about far more than just winning things on the pitch – it needs to be backed up by getting the big decisions right off the pitch as well. Often, in football, we view these kinds of mega contracts as inherently major risks, but the far greater risk would’ve been letting Salah walk out the door for nothing next summer and trying to find a suitable replacement while also needing to bring in two high quality midfielders in the same window. That’s an awful lot of player churn and investment to get right in a short space of time. This way, Liverpool have a set of forward options they can bank on for several years, while being able to focus their attention on midfield signings (whether it be this summer, or more likely, next).
As all reliable reports have stated, Salah’s contract is heavily incentivised, so the more he scores and the more trophies Liverpool win, the better he’ll be compensated – not that he’s the kind of character who’d rest on his laurels, anyway. He’s only ever been utterly relentless in his pursuit of greatness at Liverpool, holding himself to the highest standards to such an extent that he often berates himself when he doesn’t play as well as he feels he can. In terms of his fitness and durability, meanwhile, he’s a freak of nature – so there’s every reason to feel confident he can continue performing at a similar level well into his 30s, which is becoming increasingly common these days with sports science drastically elongating players’ peaks.
Now, Liverpool have clarity and can plot the next few years around Salah, and go into the new season without the looming dark cloud of his ever-nearing departure and the incessant speculation around where he’ll end up. Right now, there’s no one else in his position who Liverpool could realistically buy, who comes anywhere near close to providing what Salah does in terms of goals, assists and all-round contribution, in and out of possession.
It’s a heavy investment, but one which makes all the sense in the world, maximising Liverpool’s chances of success and providing a renewed sense of stability not just in the upcoming campaign, but for at least another two thereafter. It matters not only in the realm of what Salah offers to the team, but the wider policy shift it signals – that Liverpool are prepared, within reason, to do what’s necessary to hold on to their most prized assets and assert themselves at the top of the European football food chain.
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