Liverpool

Just give Mohamed Salah all the money already, please

Andrew Headspeath
The £80m man and Mo Salah
The £80m man and Mo Salah / Michael Regan/GettyImages
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With his first goal in Liverpool's 5-0 demolition of Man Utd on Sunday, Mohamed Salah became the outright highest scoring African in Premier League history, having shared the honour with the great Didier Drogba for all of one week.

With his third, he became the first opposition player to score a hat-trick at Old Trafford since the Brazilian Ronaldo back in 2003.

About a quarter of the 2021/22 season gone, Salah has more goals than games and an astounding 15 goal contributions in just nine Premier League matches. On current form, he is on to break his own Premier League goal record of 32 in a season. On current form, he's in the conversation for the Ballon d'Or.

Surely, there was no better way than Sunday's performance to make the case for that big new contract.

The situation is clear. Salah has said he wants to stay at Anfield beyond 2023, when his current terms expire. What was left unsaid, however, is that he wants to stay for the right price.

90min understands that Salah is seeking a wage which would make him one of the Premier League's highest earners - alongside the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Cristiano Ronaldo, but not necessarily matching their £400,000-a-week pay packets - on a deal that could run until his 34th birthday.

On Sunday's showing, with Ronaldo's most significant contribution being to attempt a form of improvised stud acupuncture on Curtis Jones' stomach, it's a very difficult to argue that Salah isn't a least as worthy of that same kind of money as the Portuguese.

The case against paying Salah the big bucks is generally two-fold.

One: old logic says players' abilities tend to decline post 30 and there is a risk that Liverpool could be stuck paying silly money for years of a disappointing and unsellable Salah tribute act. See: Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez etc etc.

Two: raising Salah's wage to such a degree would cause others in the squad to seek their own wage bumps, which could be prohibitively costly for Liverpool and potentially destabilising in the dressing room.

That's the logic, anyway.

But when you have a player capable of scoring hat-tricks at OId Trafford, twisting the Manchester City defence into pretzels, and creating his own Goal of the Month sub categories, then who wants logic?

Liverpool have for the first time, perhaps since peak Steven Gerrard, perhaps since the 1980s, perhaps ever, the best footballer on the planet.

Up to this point, the FSG, Michael Edwards and Jurgen Klopp modus operandi has been to create superstars not buy them. With Salah they have created a monster.

It's one thing developing the best talent, but to keep them, you have to pay. That's just the game.

It would be nice if elite-level footballers ditched the hard-wiring of capitalism and accepted less than market value to keep going at the clubs the purport to love, but it doesn't work that way. And let's be honest, you would do the same in Salah's position.

From a business perspective, there is sense in adding two years to Salah's deal.

Mohamed Salah, David De Gea
Can Liverpool afford not to pay Salah? / Shaun Botterill/GettyImages

As anyone who has seen his ab canyon in HD knows, Salah is fanatical about his fitness and conditioning. He has studied the examples of Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, who have continued to excel well into their 30s and he has every chance of doing the same.

He does not appear to be a player on the verge of a steady decline, or one about to see his body ravaged by miles on the clock.

In four full seasons at Liverpool, Salah has missed just seven Premier League games and (remarkably) has never had an injury that has seen him absent for more than a single fixture.

There is, of course, a dropping-off risk with every player, but notion of players not being able to sustain their physical peak past 30 needs updating.

A case in point: of the 30 Ballon d'Or nominees for this year, 13 are 30 or over (four more, including Salah, are 29).

Sports science has advanced, clearly.

There is even an argument that many elite players, with the right coaching, nutrition and the rest can even improve into their fourth decade.

As the legendary Athletic Club striker Aritz Aduriz - a man who scored well over half of his 285 career goals after turning 30 - once put it: “People say goals are innate but that’s debatable. In football, like in life, I think you’re learning continuously.”

The cost of essentially doubling Salah's wages for two more years may be expensive, especially by FSG's notoriously careful standards, but is there a better way to spend the same money?

Using the roughest of figures, would the £60-80m needed to pay Salah's demands be better used on recruiting a replacement? It's hard to imagine you could find an adequate substitute for that money anymore. And certainly not one with the dressing room clout, experience and love of the club - a love that is reciprocated by the fans ten fold.

Surely the dressing room at Anfield also now accepts Salah's special status as the star component in this team that has long prioritised the collective over the individual.

In the medium term, a new Salah contract may be the catalyst for tough decisions in the Liverpool hierarchy about other players whose agents suddenly want improved terms. Some of those players may merit their own rises, others may be made to see out their current terms or be sold. Whatever the case, those issues would ultimately exist even without the Salah dilemma.

The Egyptian said after Sunday's win that he wanted to 'write history' with the victory over United. It's something he's been doing ever since arriving at Liverpool in 2017, and has the unrelenting brilliance to continue doing for years to come. The numbers and records are astounding. Just keep him as long as he wants. Let him write more history.

FSG can call it an 'adaptation' to the business model, an 'exemption' or an 'evolution'. Whatever. Just do it.

Watching the travelling fans, giddy after 90 minutes of pure joy, sing Salah's name as he carried the hat-trick ball off the Old Trafford pitch, the real question is not whether Liverpool can afford to sign Salah up for two more years, but whether they can afford not to.

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