It is a rip-roaring title chase the Premier League has in its hands this season. Liverpool, Manchester City, and Chelsea are going hammer and tong for the bejewelled crown at the top, and each club has invested well to do so. The West London club brought in Romelu Lukaku on a club-record transfer fee just a week after the Etihad outfit broke the British record transfer fee by signing Jack Grealish for £100million.
Liverpool, on the other hand, brought in Ibrahima Konate but executed the wise transfer policy of extending the contracts of their current stars. Jordan Henderson, Andy Robertson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Allison, Virgil van Dijk, and a couple more have signed new deals over the last three months. The Anfield club’s strength lies in its existing resources rather than a gem in the transfer market. They have a proven coach with a proven squad that has won both major titles a domestic club could hope to win in Europe. All they need is one summer addition every year and attempt a massive overhaul when their major stars do get on the wrong side of 30.
Their belief in this transfer policy was such that they announced a contract extension for Jordan Henderson on the same day that Manchester United got in Cristiano Ronaldo, and Chelsea signed up Saul Niguez from Atletico Madrid. Although the latter signing has not worked out to peach, it was a big-name signing. But that is the importance FSG places on keeping its players at the club rather than losing their best players for a cut-price fee. Their decision to let go of Georginio Wijnaldum on a free transfer this summer was also perhaps the right decision as it did not make sense to get him to put pen to paper on a new deal, especially when his main attributes were easily replicated by both Harvey Elliot and Curtis Jones at the start of this season.
However, one mistake they should dare not commit is letting go of their Egyptian sensation in Mohamed Salah, whose contract is set to expire in 2023. The 29-year-old is the best player in the Premier League, if not the world, this term. Robert Lewandowski, Lionel Messi, Karim Benzema, and Cristiano Ronaldo can make a worthwhile argument in this debate but the level of performances the former Roma man is producing in such a difficult league is astounding. It is near mesmerizing.
SO WHY ARE LIVERPOOL HESITANT ON A NEW DEAL?
Firstly, handing Mo Salah a new contract is sure to disrupt the wage structure at Anfield. The club and the new ownership have worked really hard to create a financially sustainable model in Merseyside in the last decade. Man United, Man City, Chelsea have ripped apart their structures or at least increased the margin severely to keep their best players at the club while also massively overspending in the transfer market.
Liverpool have, however, maintained an incredible net flow over the years and have only invested when they have needed to. Jurgen Klopp is astutely good at churning out the best out of what is handed to him, and the German has displayed that over the last half a decade.
£400,000-per-week is the salary that Salah is said to be demanding to stay at the club. The winger also reiterated recently that he would like to stay as long as possible. Thus, the player is ready, and the ball is now in FSG’s court. To put things into perspective, Virgil van Dijk became the highest-paid player in the current roster when he signed a new contract worth £220,000-per-week.
Additionally, handing him the salary he feels he can command right now would make him the highest-paid player in the history of the club and put him on par with the second-highest paid player in the Premier League in Kevin de Bruyne and behind Cristiano Ronaldo at £480,000-per-week. At 29, FSG might wonder how many years can Salah spend at the top of European football. Moreover, they might also consider selling the player on a mammoth transfer fee at the end of this season like Chelsea did with Eden Hazard. Alternatively, they could utilise his best years and let him leave on a free transfer in 2023 or rather make a decision then.
However, the player himself might not prefer this as it would be an insult to his talent, and he would miss out on some hefty paychecks for the next 24 months.
So, the only option that remains is to make a decision by the end of this year, and there is only one criterion they will consider while doing so– Is he worth it?
Maintain the wage structure or break it for Mohamed Salah?
If there were any doubts regarding what Liverpool should do about this situation before the start of this season, those have certainly been quashed in the last 2-3 months. The player was looking fitter than ever in pre-season and was looking the part because he got some much-needed rest. He has been the talismanic figure at the club over the last four seasons and also holds the record for scoring the most goals (32) in a single season in the Premier League.
12 goals and four assists in 11 appearances across all competitions this season has put him in a good starting position to win the Premier League Golden Boot for a third time in the last five years while he also recently became the club’s highest goal-scorer in the UEFA Champions League– breaking the iconic Steven Gerrard’s goal tally.
His fitness levels are off-the-charts as his insane footwork for the goals against Manchester City and Watford show that this is not somebody who is planning on slowing down any time soon. Regardless of where he ranks statistically amongst the world beaters in world football currently, his physique and energy levels are just as good as the likes of Ibrahimovic, Lewandowski, Messi, and Ronaldo. This lot rarely miss games and seldom fail to perform in the big ones.
However, the most important thing Liverpool need to understand is that the winger is the sole difference between them winning the major trophies and competing for a place in the Top 4 year-in and year-out. Salah’s numbers do not lie, and only the most calculated statistician can predict whether another striker can produce the same numbers in this team. Man City, Chelsea, and Man United could only hope to have a centre-forward that guarantees goals like the 29-year-old because of his consistency of scoring against everybody in the league season-after-season.
While Klopp’s method of football does suit the Egyptian, the player has also lived up to his end of the bargain by scoring relentlessly and ensuring that the club goes deep into the Champions League every year and actively puts up a fight for the Premier League. Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino showed that they cannot be counted on last season, but Salah showed why he is more important to Liverpool than any other player to any other club.
Alternatively, Getting Erling Haaland or Kylian Mbappe or another world-class forward does not suit the Anfield outfit’s transfer policy and getting in a potential star will also be another project again and will need a certain amount of time before he is bedded into the process.
This is an important era for Liverpool, and it is their chance to rack up one or two more league titles and Champions League triumphs. They have the golden chance to create something special and give plenty of memories to the fans. Mo Salah is extremely crucial to this because he is one of the very few players in the world currently who can create half a chance into a moment of glory. They rely on him for the brilliance and to dig them out of holes.
As much as Liverpool love to think about the future, they cannot ignore the present. Moreover, the best players and the talented stars will be attracted to the club only when they continue to dish out good football and the opportunity to play alongside the best of the best and compete for the biggest trophies.
Salah is, thus, indispensable for their current project and is also tied to the future– his 137 goals and 51 assists in 214 appearances surely do the talking.
The best clubs retain their best players, and Liverpool now need to break their wage structure and ensure that the finest of the fine in the Premier League stays at Anfield for as long as he can.