John Aldridge: If Mohamed Salah ends up winning the Ballon d'Or, it could be terrible news for Liverpool
MOHAMED Salah may well be a strong contender to win the Ballon d’Or for 2018 by the time we get to the end of this summer’s World Cup finals and that could be terrible news for Liverpool.
Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have been the two best players in the world for a long time, but Salah is putting himself in their company with his performances this season and that reality has consequences.
As Salah smashed in another four Premier League goals in Liverpool’s 5-0 win against Watford on Saturday, this remarkable Egyptian superstar cemented his status as one of the most wanted men in world football.
He has now scored more goals than any other player in the major European leagues, with his 28 goals putting him three ahead of the great Messi and inevitably sparking speculation over his future at Liverpool.
As we have seen in recent years with Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho, success on this scale has consequences and I suspect it won’t be long before we see Salah being linked with a move to Real Madrid.
Barcelona probably won’t be able to splash the cash again having spent so much to sign Coutinho and Ousmane Dembélé in recent months, but Real Madrid like to sign the next big thing in world football every summer and at this moment in time, that man is Salah.
If he takes Liverpool close to Champions League success and then shines in the World Cup with Egypt, his status will rise to potentially unmanageable levels from Liverpool’s perspective.
Football clubs look at so many factors aside from the talent of a player when they make a big money move these days and unfortunately, Salah ticks virtually every box Real Madrid will look for as they target their next Galactico.
He is already just about the most famous man in Egypt, a huge superstar on the African continent and that makes him a prized asset as clubs look to raise their profile and popularity all over the world.
In addition, he appears to be a very level headed guy who has not allowed the success that has come his way this season to go to his head, so he could probably handle the pressures of playing for a big club like Real Madrid.
Throw in the fact that he scores goals for fun, doesn’t get injured often and is getting better with each passing week and you have a recipe that Real Madrid will struggle to resist.
So what can Liverpool do to stave off what may now be the inevitable £150m-plus off for their latest star man this summer? The only option is to sit down with Salah’s agent and pay him whatever the going rate is to stay at Liverpool for the next few years, with any pay rise that comes his way more than justified given his performances this season.
As we saw with both Suarez and Coutinho, who signed new deals a few months before they left the club, a contract is barely worth the paper it is written on these days, but that is the only option open the Anfield board now.
Losing Salah on the back of the deals for Suarez and Coutinho would be a hammer blow to the club’s reputation as while Liverpool are a massive name in world football, they don’t want to become a club that are little more than a stepping stone for the world’s best players before they move on to Real Madrid or Barcelona.
All you can hope is that Salah has a different mentality to the players who left Anfield in years gone by, yet you wonder whether anyone in that Liverpool squad has big loyalty to a club that they have no emotional connection with.
If I was in Salah’s position now and Real Madrid came in with a big-money offer to take me out of Liverpool, I would ignore them because my dream was always to wear the red shirt at Anfield, but that kind of loyalty has long since been stripped from the game.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp may try to suggest to Salah that a move away from Liverpool after one wonderfully successful year would be a gamble, as he may not have the same conditions to excel if he was in a Real Madrid team dominated by Cristiano Ronaldo next season, yet that argument is likely to fall on deaf ears.
At the end of the day, money will probably not be the big issue when Salah’s future comes under discussion as he is already a multi-millionaire and would not look to leave Liverpool to bolster his bank balance.
The reality is that most players in world football cannot say no when Real Madrid or Barcelona come calling and Liverpool may be about to discover as much once again with their latest superstar.