As we approach the business end of the season, the annual debate over who should be crowned as the PFA Player of the Year rears its head once again. The likes of Kevin de Bruyne, Sergio Aguero and Harry Kane are rightly being touted as some of the favourites, but one man has outshone them all.
Everybody knows just how special Mohamed Salah has been for Liverpool this season. He is winning the race not only for the Premier League Golden Boot, but is clear of the likes of Messi, Lewandowski and Ronaldo in the European Golden Shoe standings. Further boosting his chances are the six goals in seven Champions League starts this season, and only two players (Kevin de Bruyne and Leroy Sane) have more league assists than the Egyptian this term.Embed from Getty Images
Whilst the stats don’t lie, there is a lot more to Mo Salah than just his incredible goal return. Playing on the right wing, his pace and Messi-like close control (no, I am not saying he is as good as Messi) enable him to bamboozle defenders even before he has beaten the player. Left backs know that his left foot is lethal and so the natural reaction would be to show him down the line on his right foot.
But such is his sheer acceleration, Salah can knock the ball down the line before cutting in and letting fire with his left. His goal against Bournemouth where he beat Charlie Daniels on his outside and his inside is a prime example of this rare ability, as was the first of his four goals against Watford last weekend, weaving inside then outside before finding the back of the net, leaving the helpless Miguel Britos on his backside in the process.
The newly-dubbed ‘Egyptian King’ has been in great form since the start of the season, but somehow, is still continuing to improve. Every game he seems to be setting another record. After the first ten games, Liverpool fans knew that they had signed a quality player, but there was always a feeling that eventually the goals would dry up. He was missing some easy chances, and sometimes becoming invisible for periods of matches.
Then he would pop up with a goal and people would forget that he was anonymous for most of the game. The watershed moment for me was at West Ham back in November, where he bagged two excellent goals and collected the man of the match award as the Reds ran out 4-1 winners. He dominated the match from the first whistle to the last, and this set the trend for the sparkling run of form that has followed. It started a run of 27 goals and seven assists in 26 games for club and country. Messi-like numbers.
There is the argument that because Salah has not won any trophies, he is not a worthy winner of the award. Kevin de Bruyne has been Manchester City’s talisman this season, and with the League Cup and Premier League sewn up, he will be looking to add the Champions League to his haul come May. I would argue that de Bruyne is a more complete player, and I do not want to put a dampener on a season that has catapulted him from the excellent player bracket to that of genuinely world class. The Belgian now plays with all the finesse and authority of a Hans Zimmer composition, and is fully deserving of the special plaudits he receives.Embed from Getty Images
However, if we are talk about ‘Player of the Season’, it has to be Mohamed Salah. Yes, Kevin de Bruyne is the best player in the best team, but Salah has produced countless unique moments in the past six months, whether it be his virtuoso displays at home to Leicester City and Southampton at the end of last year, scoring unbelievable goals from the most impossible of situations against Spurs in February, or scoring 4 goals (and grabbing an assist) in one game during Liverpool’s 5-0 thrashing of Watford last week. The Egyptian will surely break the 38-game Premier League goalscoring record come the end of the season, and possibly set an unsurpassable target for future players. Not bad for someone who isn’t a striker.
Seasons like these do not come along too often, and when they do, they should be celebrated accordingly.
Written by Dan Walker.