It was a thrilling game at Anfield for the fans and neutrals.
This is it. We’ve made it to the pointy end of our countdown of the ten best Liverpool signings of the 2010s. Today: pick No. 1.
1. Mohamed Salah
£37 million from AS Roma on 1 July 2017
Coming in at No. 1 is Liverpool’s ‘Egyptian King’ Mohamed Salah – the man who symbolises everything Jurgen Klopp has done right since he became manager four and a half years ago.
I remember embracing the icy winds of a standard July afternoon in Melbourne, enjoying the warmth of a latte with a friend discussing the latest addition to Liverpool’s squad.
“Ready for the new season?” he asked, already knowing my answer to be an assertive yes, as it is every year.
The next question, however, was deviously cast my way in hope of evoking some kind of emotional reaction.
“Got your Mohamed Salah poster on your wall yet?” he said with more than a hint of a sarcastic smirk on his face.
A small note to remember – it was only 2017. The decade had thus far mustered only a Carling Cup in 2012, and I had yet to find any kind of antivenom to soften the sting of Steven Gerrard’s slip in 2014.
In other words, it was easy to poke fun at a Liverpool supporter, and he didn’t think us bringing in Mohamed Salah from Roma was going to do much to put a halt to his banter.
I had some optimism about Salah’s arrival, though. I knew he was coming off neat tallies of 14 and 15 goals in Serie A with Roma. I knew he had blistering pace, an area of Liverpool’s squad that definitely needed improving outside of having Sadio Mane. I also knew he had Premier League experience, though the experience wasn’t exactly a positive one.
However, I feel like his initial failure in England only added to the success story that continues to this day. Nobody expected much of anything out of the Egyptian, and by the time people started to take notice, Mohamed Salah already had one hand on the Golden Boot.
In fact Salah’s Golden Boot-winning tally of 32 strikes in 2017-18 is the highest since the Premier League has been contested in a 38-game season, making him the most prolific winner since Alan Shearer’s 34-goal haul for Blackburn Rovers in 1994-95.
That’s more goals than the likes of Thierry Henry, Robin van Persie, Didier Drogba, Ruud van Nistelrooy or Cristiano Ronaldo ever managed in a single season while playing in the Premier League.
Hard to believe? It’s even more perplexing when you realise Salah had never even managed a 20-goal haul in his career prior to joining Liverpool – you could hardly even think of him as a consistent goal-scorer – let alone a Golden Boot winner.
And that’s just the first one.
To quell any hints of being a one-season wonder, Mohamed Salah went back to back in the Golden Boot tally board by finishing joint-winner with teammate Sadio Mane and Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in 2018-19.
The feat puts him in elite company alongside Alan Shearer, Michael Owen, Thierry Henry, Robin van Persie and Harry Kane as the only players to win the Golden Boot two years in a row.
Furthermore, only seven players had ever won the Golden Boot on multiple occasions. Mohamed Salah made it eight.
Europe has also felt the wrath of the Egyptian, who has now scored 20 times in 33 appearances, making him Liverpool’s second-most prolific Champions League scorer of all time – only Steven Gerrard has scored more.
Speaking of former Liverpool players, Mohamed Salah recently eclipsed the goalscoring tallies of Fernando Torres and Luis Suarez, all despite playing fewer matches.
When it comes to just how good Salah is in front of goal I could go on all day, just as long is it would take to go through all the records he’s annihilated en route to collecting a Champions League winners medal, a UEFA Super Cup and, most recently, the Club World Cup.
Earlier I mentioned how the signing of Salah symbolised everything Jurgen Klopp has done right at Liverpool.
What I meant by that was simple: develop an effective playing style your players can buy into and identify realistic transfer targets who will complement the system.
Liverpool didn’t send the media into a frenzy or break the bank by buying Salah from Roma. On the contrary: the fee they managed to pick him up for is almost laughable.
This is the major difference between my No. 2 selection, Virgil van Dijk, and my No. 1.
Had Salah failed or not performed to the elite level he has thus far, would there have been that much discussion about it? In Van Dijk’s case, yes, especially after attracting all sorts of attention after signing for a then-record breaking fee for a defender.
A marginal difference, perhaps, as both have obviously been two of the best signings for Liverpool this decade, if not this century.
Mohamed Salah is the standout in a list of top-tier buys from a club who entered the decade in a spiral of disarray and exit it back on top of the football word looking to reclaim a once familiar prize that’s been 30 years in the making: the Premier League title.
Maybe it’s time I get that Salah poster up on my wall.