Salah has been challenging the likes of Messi and Ronaldo at the top of the scoring charts. Can he clinch the big prize?
The topic of Mohamed Salah must be tiring right now, but it is a matter worth taking up, given the arrival of a player who finally appears to be capable enough to challenge the monopoly of two living legends – Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi – for the Ballon d’Or.
Mohamed Salah, the player who didn’t even cost half of what Paul Pogba did to Manchester United, has shocked many footballing minds this season. What the fans have witnessed from the Egyptian so far, needs no introduction.
The former Reds winger Harry Kewell believes Salah could finally end the stranglehold of Messi and Ronaldo on the prestigious award.
“People are saying about Player of the Year, but I’d even go that next step. If he was to have a fantastic World Cup, gets a couple of goals and plays well, and then continues again next season, why not go for the Ballon d’Or? He’s got the goals, I don’t see why he couldn’t win it.”
That said, here is a look at 5 reasons why the Liverpool forward could win the Ballon d’Or in 2019:
#5 Getting better and better
The winger has been repeatedly delivering some moments of absolute genius on the pitch, since arriving in England. At the start of the season, he appeared to be heavily reliant on his left foot for any sort of fruitful creativity. When pushed to the by-line on the right-wing, he was unable to produce a cross and instead looked to cut-back inside.
He has simply eradicated that problem since then, and has balanced his game on either feet – however with the left being more lethal of the two. As the season progressed, the 25-year-old has improved his dribbling and has worked on his composure in the final-third.
Against Watford, he produced a performance which will repeatedly be played in the Premier League archives. At the moment, he appears to be a player tailormade for this Liverpool team and English football.
Klopp has also used the Egyptian in the centre-forward position occasionally, indicating Salah’s versatility.
Presently, Salah appears only to be getting better with every outing in a red shirt. If he manages to keep his stride, it wouldn’t be hard imagining him contesting for the big-night in France.
#4 Liverpool’s current situation
Liverpool have no chance of silverware this season, unless they are planning to pull out another “Miracle of Istanbul” out of their hats, later in May. As a result, the Reds are under pressure to win the Champions League.
Jurgen Klopp’s men should comfortably be sealing a Champions League spot by the end of this season, and with their domestic cup adventures over earlier than predicted, the UEFA Champions League is all they have to play for now.
Liverpool have been drawn against Manchester City for the quarter finals of the competition and until then, they can afford to rotate their squad to some extent domestically.
Looking at their fixtures in the league, their biggest test would be the visit to Stamford Bridge in May, which considering Chelsea’s below-par season and form, should not cause much trouble to them.
It is in an environment like this that players like Mohamed Salah thrive. At this point, the player can target personal achievements to some extent without putting the team’s chances of glory in jeopardy.
Both Ronaldo and Messi have to carry their teams to European glory, like every other season. Barca will be targetting a treble while Real Madrid have put all their eggs in a single basket.
Perhaps, all this pressure will cause Salah to become even lethal. Should he be able to do that, he could be getting one over the star-duo.
#3 Favorable group in the World Cup
As rightly pointed out by Harry Kewell, a couple of good performances by Salah in Russia will take him even closer to the big prize. Engulfed in club football, what fans tend to forget is that the 2014 World Cup was as instrumental in securing Lionel Messi’s fifth Ballon d’Or, as club glory.
Messi bagged four goals, ending with the Player of the Tournament prize. The Egyptian could also look forward to make a statement at the World Cup in summer. Egypt have Uruguay, Russia and Saudi Arabia to compete against in the group-stages.
Egypt, on paper, appear to be contesting for the second qualification spot to the knock-outs from their group. Uruguay would be a major challenge for them and the victories at this stage never come easy, whatever the opposition may be.
Their skipper, Salah will be the key to their progress in the tournament. The player has carried his country to the World Cup all by himself and he would need to repeat his heroics from the qualification campaign for his country at the competition.
If Mohamed Salah manages to net a few goals in the group games and somehow make it to the knock-outs, it would add to his résumé for the season.
#2 Leading the charts
So far, the idea of reaching the 50 (or to be fair enough, the 40) goal mark in a single season was comprehended to be achievable only by the two players who do not have be mentioned repeatedly.
However, this season, Mohamed Salah has challenged the duo for the top-spot regularly and made it not so much of a lonely walk in the park for them.
The winger has netted 37 goals in all competitions, which is on-par with both Messi and Ronaldo’s tallies. He also has 10 assists to show for, compared to 7 from the Portuguese and 14 from the Argentine.
His closest domestic competitor, Harry Kane is out of action with an injury and is rumored to be out for the rest of the season. The English Golden Boot is all but secured for the player.
If Salah manages to clinch the European Golden Shoe at the end of the season, he would be brimming with confidence at the start of the new season and it would be hard to stop him anytime soon in 2018/19.
A good start to the new campaign, and some promising individual performances from him will certainly help in providing a final push for the Egyptian.
#1 The find of the season
It has been quite a debatable issue for a while if the number of trophies won carry any weight in determining the winner of Ballon d’Or. Had it been the case, Frank Ribery was the obvious winner ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo for his individual display and a treble winning 2012/13 season.
The truth is, no matter what a player achieves or how many goals he nets in a season, the winner is always determined by the voters consisting of national team captains and managers, senior journalists, etc.
It is those brains who choose the winner and not any pre-agreed criteria. Coming to the point, Salah has been the find of the season. From being a Chelsea reject to amazing everyone, the player has stolen all the hearts.
Even the rival fans have started to admire the player for his skills and humbleness. The way he carried his country to Russia was quite remarkable and the passion and element of humanity in his game has conquered a million hearts.
By now, the world is talking about him, which evidently includes the voters. He is not a star just because he is among the big names, but for the fact that he takes things into his hands every time he steps onto the pitch.
The football fans could well be understanding the criteria of determining the Ballon d’Or winner this time, when the world finally appoints a victor beyond the Messi-Ronaldo era.