Liverpool have boosted their attacking options by signing former Chelsea winger Mohamed Salah from Roma. Kevin Hatchard believes it could prove to be one of the most shrewd acquisitions of the summer...
"At Roma, he thrived, securing 29 Serie A goals and 17 assists in two seasons. In the campaign that has just been completed, he was outstanding in many games, and formed an excellent understanding with Edin Dzeko. Salah isn't just a wide player - he drifts inside, and his direct running can make him devastatingly effective."
For all his flamboyance and charisma, the fist pumps and the gamut of facial expressions, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp is a man who builds things steadily and slowly. At his first club Mainz, he delivered three solid but ultimately unsuccessful campaigns in the German second tier before finally clinching promotion. In his first couple of seasons with Borussia Dortmund he helped to team finish fifth and sixth, but then BVB burst into life as they won back-to-back Bundesliga titles.
At Anfield, Klopp could only lead the Reds to eighth in his first season, but at the end of his first full campaign, he secured Champions League football thanks to a rarely-won place in the top four. Now the big question is whether Liverpool can make the leap to being genuine Premier League title contenders, and much of that could be down to who comes in to reinforce the squad this summer.
After the farcical and embarrassing end to Liverpool's pursuit of Southampton's defensive behemoth Virgil van Dijk, Liverpool appear to have made a very astute signing by bringing in Egyptian winger Mohamed Salah from Roma. The Italian giants say the fee is 42m euros, and in today's market I believe that's a fair price for a player that has previous Premier League experience, and who lit up Serie A for several seasons.
Salah first caught the eye at Swiss club Basel, not only performing consistently in the Swiss Super League, but also scoring key goals in the Europa League and Champions League. In one particular campaign, he netted an equaliser in Basel's shock UCL win at Chelsea, and then scored the only goal of the reverse fixture.
Those displays helped convince Chelsea to bring Salah to London the following summer, although Liverpool were also part of the chasing pack. As notorious stockpilers of talent, Chelsea can be one of the hardest clubs in Europe to establish yourself at, and Salah struggled to make an impact up against rivals like Eden Hazard and Willian. In a hugely frustrating spell at Stamford Bridge, Salah was restricted to making just six starts.
A loan move to Italy in January 2015 reignited his career. At Fiorentina, he was trusted to start regularly, and he played with freedom and elan. In the second half of the Serie A season, he scored six goals and set up three more in just 16 games. Fiorentina wanted to keep Salah in Florence (they complained to FIFA about breach of contract when he left), but he rejected a permanent switch and forced his way to the Italian capital.
At Roma, he thrived, securing 29 Serie A goals and 17 assists in two seasons. In the campaign that has just been completed, he was outstanding in many games, and formed an excellent understanding with Edin Dzeko. Salah isn't just a wide player - he drifts inside, and his direct running can make him devastatingly effective.
One of the main things that will doubtless have caught Klopp's eye is Salah's willingness to work without the ball. He is capable of winning possession high up the pitch and has the pace and determination to press, which is vital for forwards in Klopp's system. At the age of 25, he has plenty of experience, but still room to develop. Klopp has shown he is a fine teacher, and it's hard to think of a player better suited to Klopp's "gegenpressing" philosophy.
Klopp eschews the traditional use of the centre-forward, and you could see Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino bamboozling defenders in a fluid triumvirate, with Philippe Coutinho supplying the ammunition. Salah gives Liverpool even more flexibility than they already have, and his work alongside Dzeko at Roma shows that he can play off a central striker if necessary.
Some will focus on Salah's unsuccessful spell at Chelsea as a cause for concern, but he was never really given a fair crack of the whip. If the Egyptian he hits the heights that I think he will, I think he'll help propel Liverpool to another top-four finish next season, and show Chelsea fans what might have been.