In its most basic terms, the idea that Liverpool would allow Mohamed Salah to leave the club makes no sense: he’s a joy to watch; he's consistently top scorer; replacing him would be nigh-on impossible. But giving him what he wants would lead Liverpool down a path of no return, as their red rivals have found out to their cost.
90min has been told Liverpool and Salah are still ‘some way apart’ in talks over a new contract. The 29-year-old has 15 months left on his current deal after a year of toing and froing over new terms. Fenway Sports Group (FSG) are reportedly willing to pay him in excess of £300,000-per-week, making him the club’s highest paid player, but are ‘unlikely’ to stretch to the £400,000-per-week Salah and his representatives are angling for.
The problem for Liverpool, the reason for their reticence, isn’t Salah per se, but the ensuing headaches that sort of deal would engender.
Given Kevin De Bruyne reportedly earns over £400,000-per-week, Salah’s demands aren’t unreasonable. But Liverpool are wise to be concerned by a domino effect. Bend to Salah’s will and they can be sure the agents of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Virgil van Dijk would be on the phone in a flash, questioning whether the club really think their clients are worth half that of their teammate.
The annual wages of Manchester United's seven highest earners stands at just over £120m. That figure covers the cost of Liverpool's top 20. Three of United's four most well-paid players – Cristiano Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane – all arrived in the summer and earn over £300,000-per-week.
Why were they offered such huge contracts? It will have been a combination of factors – including (of course) how good they are, how much United wanted them, and how much their rivals also wanted them – but key to any negotiation will have been David de Gea, who's been picking up £375,000-per-week at Old Trafford for the last two-and-a-half seasons. The man that stands between the goalposts at United, also moved them, and there's no going back.
Liverpool are better off keeping their wages relatively low and trusting that players will want to join because it's Liverpool, just as they should hedge their bets that Salah and his posse are playing hardball and he actually definitely wants to stay in the best league in the world, playing under one of the best managers.
Because another huge problem with offering big wages is the inability to then move those players on. Who wants Harry Maguire for £190,000-per-week? Who wants Anthony Martial for £250,000? Cristiano Ronaldo for £510,000?
And it's easy to say those were just bad decisions; that Salah is a sure thing. But it's not just about Salah and the current Liverpool crop. The representatives of Jude Bellingham, Jarrod Bowen, whoever, will look to the top earner as a bargaining chip in negotiations and inevitably get better terms because the wage ceiling has been raised so significantly. Those players, good though they are, aren't sure things.
FSG have overseen the glorious return of a great Liverpool team. That's in no small part down to Jurgen Klopp, his staff, the players, Michael Edwards, but the buck stops with the owners: they make the ultimate decisions that affect everything at the football club.
Deciding whether to give their best player £100,000 more per week than they're willing may seem like a relatively minor call, but then the Glazers probably thought that when they offered De Gea his mammoth contract, and look at the mess they're in now.
If the choice is between Salah and the long-term prosperity of Liverpool Football Club, it's got to be sayonara Salah. He's a wonderful footballer, but that's all he is.