On-song Salah keeping Liverpool’s Fab Four in tune
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.”
Mohamed Salah celebrates scoring during Liverpool’s 4-0 Premier League victory over Bournemouth on Dec 17.