Chelsea

Why Mohamed Salah failed to live up to expectations at Chelsea

Ross Jackson
Salah never really got going at Stamford Bridge
Salah never really got going at Stamford Bridge / Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
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In what's already been a pretty turbulent week for Chelsea fans, what better time than now to look back on a period when they let a future Ballon d'Or contender slip through their fingers?

On 26 January 2014, a fresh faced Egyptian by the name Mohamed Salah arrived at Stamford Bridge. The youngster had been linked to a whole host of Premier League clubs prior to committing to the Blues, though he chose to linkup with Jose Mourinho; a move which ultimately turned out to be an absolute nightmare.

In two-and-a-half years on Chelsea's books, Salah would muster just 13 league appearances and two goals, twice being shipped out on loan to Serie A before finally securing a permanent move to Roma.

So what exactly went wrong? How did a man who is universally recognised as one of the best managers on the planet allow a player who would go on to break Premier League records leave the club after having so few opportunities?

Well, it wouldn't be the first time he'd made a similar mistake - something Messrs Lukaku and De Bruyne will testify to - but did Mourinho in fact make a mistake at all?

Football managers are placed under so much scrutiny, with their every substitution analysed, that we're all very quick to jump on them the second they look to have slipped up. Yet, hindsight is wonderful thing, and more often than not these 'mistakes' aren't as clear cut as they seem.

Mourinho and Salah back in 2014
Mourinho and Salah back in 2014 / GLYN KIRK/Getty Images

Take Tony Pulis' treatment of Serge Gnabry for example. The former West Brom boss has been roundly mocked for his treatment of a winger who was afforded just 12 minutes of Premier League football during his time at The Hawthorns, yet is now both a German and European champion as well as being a world class winger.

But just because he's brilliant now doesn't mean he was brilliant back then. He's older, wiser and stronger now and obviously a much more rounded player, so why do we just assume he was brilliant five years ago?

The same is true of Salah. At 21, he was clearly far from the physical specimen which now sits proudly atop the footballing world. There's a ruthless streak to his game which wasn't apparent even during his time in Italy, and he's clearly developed as both a player and a person, much like everyone does from your early to late twenties.

""He was just a lost kid in London. He was a lost kid in a new world. He was a lonely boy, a naive boy, completely out of context and physically fragile. When he comes back to England he has completely adapted to the high level of European football. He had more understanding of the game, he was physically stronger and he was more confident, much more confident.""

Jose Mourinho
Salah's career took off in Serie A
Salah's career took off in Serie A / Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images

Of course there's an argument to be made that it's Mourinho's job to blood youngsters and offer them a chance in the first team, but unfortunately there's a time and a place for this to be done, and having secured Premier League glory in Salah's second season at the club, Chelsea clearly weren't at a stage where they felt a rogue 21-year-old could be afforded a chance to develop and make his mistakes in the first team.

Not only was Salah far from the player he is today, the competition for places was also a huge factor in his lack of development at Chelsea.

The Egyptian joined a team brimming with international talent, including £30m recent arrival Willian, Brazilian playmaker Oscar, Germany international Oscar and some bloke called Eden Hazard, while
Juan Cuadrado's arrival in the 2015 January transfer window was the final dagger to Salah's Stamford Bridge career.

Juan Cuadrado similarly struggled at Chelsea before flourishing elsewhere
Juan Cuadrado similarly struggled at Chelsea before flourishing elsewhere / Clive Rose/Getty Images

Interestingly, Salah's arrival midway through the 2013/14 may also be a factor in his lack of progression at Chelsea, something the aforementioned Cuadrado is a perfect example of.

Many clubs avoid making big-money moves in January, partly because it's tough for a player to adapt to a new style of play and new surroundings halfway through a season. Any player signed in the summer transfer window usually has a few months to get settled, meet their teammates and bed into new surroundings.

Much like Salah, Cuadrado wasn't afforded this luxury and his Stamford Bridge career was equally fruitless - he's not done too badly for himself having left west London either. Funny, that...

The truth is, you can bash Mourinho with the 'hindsight stick' all you like, the fact of the matter is the Portuguese tactician was hardly ignoring the Salah we see tearing up Premier League defences today.

The Liverpool man has developed and matured a lot since his maiden Premier League spell, and Chelsea shouldn't be mocked for 'failing' with Salah. If anything, his time at the club will have helped him become to player we see today.

Not that that'll make you Chelsea fans feel any better about the situation...

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