Mohamed Salah’s Liverpool legacy compares to Steven Gerrard, Ian Rush and the rest - 'The Egyptian King' belongs on Anfield's Mount Rushmore
Steven Gerrard, Ian Rush, Roger Hunt, Luis Suarez, Robbie Fowler, Kenny Dalglish, Billy Liddell. In one way or another, Mohamed Salah either equalled or surpassed each of these Liverpool greats on Saturday.
The Egyptian’s goal was the difference as Jurgen Klopp’s side edged past Brentford at Anfield, keeping alive their Champions League qualification hopes in the process.
But as with so many Salah strikes, there was further context to be added, additional records to be attached. And yet more evidence, as if it were needed, that we are dealing with an all-time Liverpool great here, one whose name deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Gerrard, Rush or just about any other Reds legend.
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Re-writing the record books
Let’s start by running through Salah’s latest individual accomplishments. Firstly, his goal against Brentford moves him level with Gerrard on 186 Liverpool goals in all competitions, joint-fifth on the Reds’ all-time list.
Ahead of him now? Only Liddell (228), Gordon Hodgson (241), Hunt (285) and Rush (346), and of those only Hodgson has a better goal-to-game ratio. Salah’s 186 strikes have come in only 302 matches.
He now has 30 goals in all competitions this season, the fourth time he has achieved such a feat in six seasons with Liverpool, and the third in succession. Only three other players - Hunt, Rush and Fowler - have netted 30+ goals in three successive seasons for the club. Nobody has done so since the mid-1990s.
Salah has also reached 100 Anfield goals, only the eighth player in Reds history to manage that, and he has become the first ever to score in nine successive home appearances, surpassing Suarez’s record of eight, set in 2013-14.
Whichever way you slice it, these are some accomplishments, and it’s some company this special, special player is keeping.
As motivated as ever
There had, foolishly, been some suggestion last summer that the new three-year contract Salah signed at Liverpool, worth an estimated £300,000 ($379,000) a week, could affect the 30-year-old’s motivation. The Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang theory, if you like.
No chance of that with Salah. Liverpool’s form this season has dipped, of course, and Salah has struggled at times within a malfunctioning team, but he has continued to work and to score and to assist. Getting too comfortable? He doesn’t know the meaning of the phrase.
“I said before, I feel at home here, I'm happy,” he told Sky Sports on Saturday. “It [breaking records] means a lot to me. It's something that makes me proud, to be fair.
“I work really hard and everybody knows that, everybody sees that. I'm just motivated to keep breaking records and just scoring goals and winning games for the team.”
Always scoring, never injured
Perhaps as impressive as anything is Salah’s quite remarkable fitness record. Since he joined from Roma in 2018, Liverpool have played 225 Premier League matches, and Salah has played in 215 of them.
Of the 10 he has missed, one was due to Covid-19, one was following a dreadful tackle from Leicester’s Hamza Choudhury and he was an unused substitute in three, all of them during the Reds’ title-winning season of 2019-20.
He has never played fewer than 48 games in a season for Liverpool in all competitions, a testament to his professionalism, mentality and outstanding physical conditioning. It is that, as much as his goalscoring brilliance, which makes him such an asset to Klopp, and to Liverpool.
'He's a machine'
Klopp, unsurprisingly, was in the mood to wax lyrical about his star man after Saturday’s game. “He’s a machine,” the Reds boss told BBC Sport, and in his post-match press conference he opened up further on Salah’s achievements and accomplishments.
“The numbers he creates, we all know that after his career he will be seen as one of the all-time greats,” he told reporters. “Now he is still in his career and some people might not appreciate him enough, but we do.
“He deserves all the praise he gets already and he will get even more after his career, that’s how it is, because in a club with the all-time greats we had in the past, being the first one who scores in nine consecutive home games is super-special.
“Scoring again 30 goals this season is super-special and setting up a lot of goals as well – he is so often involved in our goals, not only with the assist or the finish, very often with the second or third-last pass as well which is as important. So, yeah, absolutely great.”
Of course what must be pointed out is that this will, in all likelihood, be a season which ends in disappointment, both for Salah and for Liverpool.
There are no finals to look forward to, no trophies already in the bank. The drama of a title race is missing at Anfield, and while they still have an outside chance of catching Newcastle or Manchester United for a top-four finish, even that looks unlikely.
Salah won’t be picking up his fourth Premier League Golden Boot at the end of the season - it’s safe to say Erling Haaland has that boxed - and he won’t be named PFA Player of the Year for the third time either. He probably won’t even make the Team of the Year, in all honesty.
And yet it should also be pointed out that among Premier League players, only Haaland has scored more in all competitions this season. Salah has two more than Harry Kane, another who seems to be breaking a new record each week, and he has one more than Marcus Rashford, who is having the best season of his career. He has more than twice as many as Bukayo Saka, the man tipped to take over from him as the league’s best right-sided forward.
Not bad, in a team that has been nowhere near its best for pretty much all of this campaign. If Salah can do this in a struggling side, what might he do if Liverpool sort themselves out next term?
Salah, the creator
Goals pay the rent, as they say. But while Salah would absolutely agree with the sentiments of the great TV commentator David Coleman, one of the most impressive things about his time at Liverpool is the way he has continued to evolve his game, becoming a creator as much as a scorer.
He has never scored fewer than 23 goals in a season for Liverpool, but in five of his six campaigns he has also reached double figures for assists. This term, he has set up more Premier League goals than Kane or Rashford or Gabriel Martinelli or Son Heung-min, as many as Haaland or Martin Odegaard.
According to lfchistory.net, Salah is ninth on Liverpool’s all-time assists chart, ahead of greats such as Terry McDermott, Ray Kennedy, Peter Beardsley and Jan Molby. He will soon catch, and surpass, Roberto Firmino and Kevin Keegan, too.
Salah will, without question, go down as one of Liverpool’s all-time greats, and it is scary to think what he might achieve before he leaves the club. Even if he were to leave at the end of his current contract in 2025, it would be fair to assume he will go past Liddell and get close to Hodgson as the third-highest Reds goalscorer. It is fair to assume he will threaten the likes of Rush and Steve McManaman in the top five of the all-time assists chart.
And it is fair to hope that he will help Liverpool challenge for trophies once more, too. This has not been a vintage season at Anfield, but to listen to Klopp recently is to listen to a man convinced that solutions will be found, both in the transfer market and on the training pitch. They might not reach the heights of last season, when they could and perhaps should have won the lot, but they’ll be back competing, for sure. Especially with Salah leading their charge.
By the time he’s finished - and fans will hope that day is a long way away - there will be no doubt whatsoever as to the Egyptian’s Liverpool legacy. If ever there was to be an Anfield version of Mount Rushmore, Salah’s face would feature, alongside those of Dalglish, Gerrard and Rush.
Of that there can now be no argument.