On-song Salah keep­ing Liver­pool’s Fab Four in tune

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS -

There’s a new “Fab Four” mak­ing Liver­pool sing — and this time, there’s no ques­tion which mem­ber is the big­gest star.

Some fans of The Bea­tles think John Len­non was the driv­ing force be­hind the Liver­pudlian band that be­came a global phe­nom­e­non in the 1960s. Oth­ers lean to Paul McCart­ney.

In the soc­cer ver­sion, Mo­hamed Salah is cur­rently the un­doubted front­man at An­field.

The 25-year-old Egyp­tian is putting Liver­pool’s greatest strik­ers in the shade with his scor­ing feats in his first sea­son at the Premier League club.

His goal in the 4-0 win at Bournemouth on Sun­day moved his tally to 20 in all com­pe­ti­tions, mak­ing Salah the first Liver­pool player since Ian Rush in 1986 to get to that mark in a sea­son by Christ­mas.

Only one player in Liver­pool’s 125year his­tory has reached 20 goals quicker than Salah in his 26 games — Ge­orge Al­lan (in 19 games in 1895) — and he’s the top scorer, with 14 goals, in a Premier League cam­paign no­table for the strength of at­tack­ing tal­ent across Eng­land’s top teams.

Maybe Manch­ester City’s ir­re­press­ible play­maker Kevin De Bruyne is not guar­an­teed to be Eng­land’s Player of the Year af­ter all.

“I don’t go home and think, ‘My God, what a player Mo Salah is. How good is he?’” Liver­pool man­ager Jur­gen Klopp said af­ter the Bournemouth game, clearly at­tempt­ing to down­play the hype.

Klopp is prob­a­bly in the mi­nor­ity. Salah be­came Liver­pool’s record sign­ing when he joined from Ital­ian club Roma for $49 mil­lion in the off­sea­son, strength­en­ing an at­tack that al­ready boasted the qual­ity of Sa­dio Mane, Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino. They have been la­beled — much to Klopp’s ir­ri­ta­tion — the “Fab Four” by the English me­dia, the same nick­name The Bea­tles were given.

In­stead of play­ing in his usual role as an out-and-out winger, Salah is be­ing de­ployed vir­tu­ally as a striker who drifts out wide to the right. Nom­i­nally, Firmino is the striker and the most cen­tral of the “Fab Four” but he likes to drop deep, al­low­ing Salah to get ahead of the Brazil­ian in an in­side-right po­si­tion.

His pace en­ables him to get in be­hind de­fenses — Bournemouth left­back Char­lie Daniels sim­ply couldn’t cope at Vi­tal­ity Sta­dium on Sun­day — and he has de­vel­oped a trade­mark fin­ish, cut­ting in­side and curl­ing shots into the far cor­ner just as Ar­jen Robben has done for years at Bay­ern Mu­nich, Chelsea and the Nether­lands.

As an 18-year-old with El Mokawloon in the Egyp­tian league, Salah used to play as Liver­pool on the FIFA video game and re­mem­bered con­trol­ling star names like Steven Ger­rard, Michael Owen and Xabi Alonso.

He also promised to him­self that he would one day be a Liver­pool player af­ter sam­pling the spe­cial at­mo­sphere at An­field dur­ing a short, un­der­whelm­ing spell at Premier League ri­val Chelsea in 2014-15.

Salah is liv­ing out his dream, a decade af­ter tak­ing his first real steps in soc­cer when mak­ing a daily nine-hour round trip — some­times in­volv­ing five bus trans­fers — to get to train­ing with El Mokawloon in Cairo from the vil­lage where he lived, Basy­oun.

“It’s go­ing good for me here,” Salah told Liver­pool’s web­site, “but I al­ways felt I would set­tle quickly. And I think I can get bet­ter, 100 per­cent.”

PAUL CHILDS / AC­TION IM­AGES VIA REUTERS

Mo­hamed Salah cel­e­brates scor­ing dur­ing Liver­pool’s 4-0 Premier League vic­tory over Bournemouth on Dec 17.

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