Sunday, November 27, 2022

Salah reaches the Champions League final with revenge in mind

Mohamed Salah could have given the kind of diplomatic response usually offered by footballers.

But he couldn’t.

Did he have a preference — he was asked minutes after Liverpool advanced to the Champions League final three weeks ago — over which team he faced in the title match in a Paris suburb?

“Yes,” Salah said, craning his neck and moving his neck from side to side, as if preparing for another match. “I want to play against Madrid.”

The Egyptian has clearly not forgotten what happened in the 2018 final against Real Madrid in kyiv. That painful moment in the first half when he grappled with Sergio Ramos and went down hard on the ground, dislocating his left shoulder. Some compared it to a wrestling maneuver. Ramos appeared to grab Salah’s right arm and knock the striker to the grass.

Salah walked off the pitch with tears in his eyes and watched the rest of the match on television in the locker room. Liverpool, deprived of its best goalscorer, lost 3-1.

Four years later, Ramos is no longer with Madrid, having spent a first season at Paris Saint-Germain plagued by injuries.

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That didn’t stop Salah from writing “we have a score to settle” on Twitter once Madrid joined Liverpool in Saturday’s final, with an impressive comeback against Manchester City in the semi-final second leg.

“I think it’s time for a rematch,” Salah said in another interview.

Without a doubt, he has a mission.

Perhaps in more ways than one.

After all, it’s not impossible that this will be his last season for Liverpool, given that he has yet to sign a new contract. Negotiations appear to be deadlocked. As it is, Salah has one year left on his contract and he will be able to negotiate with other clubs in January.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has been upbeat on the matter, but he — like the club’s fans — must be feeling a bit worried about Salah’s potential departure. Money is not the issue, according to Salah, who has said that he is not asking for “anything crazy” and that he simply wants to be appreciated for what he has done for the team.

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“I’m not focused on the contract right now,” Salah said Wednesday. “I do not want to be selfish”.

Liverpool have taken steps to strengthen their attack for the future, signing three strikers in the last two years — Diogo Jota in August 2020, Luis Diaz in January and Fabio Carvalho from Fulham this week.

Sadio Mane and Robrto Firmino are still in the team — Mane is playing as well as he has at Liverpool — but a Salah departure would be a huge loss for the club, especially with their biggest rival in England, Manchester City, strengthening their attack with the acquisition of the star Erling Haaland.

The Egyptian just finished the Premier League season as the top scorer, tied with Tottenham’s Somg Heung-min with 23. He also had the most assists — 13.

“A crazy season,” said Klopp of Salah, who has already received England’s player of the year award from football commentators and is favored to win the vote of his colleagues.

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