Inside story of Mo Salah and Jose Mourinho’s relationship – and why Liverpool star never felt at home under him
Salah belonged to Chelsea but never truly integrated under the man who brought him to Stamford Bridge – but there was one fantastic gesture
But boss Jose Mourinho was keen to reward each and every member of his squad that had played a part over the course of the campaign, report the Liverpool Echo.
Even if, as was the case with Salah, they had featured for merely half-an-hour over three substitute appearances.
“Not all of them will get an official medal,” said Mourinho of his squad members. “But yes, we are going to buy medals.
“Schurrle, Salah, Schwarzer, Lewis Baker… all of them who started the season with us. They have been invited to the last match and the Player of the Year dinner. They belong to us.”
Salah belonged to Chelsea but never truly integrated under Mourinho, the man who brought him to Stamford Bridge for £11million from Basel in January 2014.
It was a time fraught with uncertainty for the attacker, despite an encouraging start that saw him claim two goals and two assists in 10 appearances during his first few months at the club.
The summer saw speculation Salah may not even be around Stamford Bridge at all, with claims he could be forced to return to Egypt to serve military service having had his allowance to travel from the country withdrawn after his registration on a required education program was rescinded.
The situation was swiftly resolved, the government no doubt keen to avoid negative publicity surrounding the man dubbed “the Egyptian Messi”.
Not that Chelsea and Mourinho had seen such evidence of that, the player shipped off to Fiorentina for six months in January 2015, then moving to Roma on an initial season-long loan before switching permanently, a deal concluded more than 18 months after his last appearance in the Premier League.
Salah didn’t look back. Now, with Liverpool visiting Old Trafford on Saturday, the 25-year-old once again comes up against the man he admits has, in a roundabout way, made him determined to succeed at Anfield.
“We talked at Chelsea when I first came back from the loan spell at Fiorentina,” Salah told FourFourTwo magazine last month.
“We also spoke after the match against Manchester United this season and have a good relationship.
“We didn’t talk much, but it was okay. Three years ago I didn’t play much, but since day one back in England I wanted to show what I can do. I think I’m doing well.”
Eden Hazard, his former Chelsea team-mate, hinted recently why Salah didn’t make it at Stamford Bridge.
“He is still my friend and we are still in contact,” said Hazard. “He’s a top, top, top player. He did not get his chance at Chelsea – maybe because of the manager, because of the other players? I don’t know.”
For his part, Mourinho isn’t one for being wise after the event.
“I’m not surprised with Salah’s performance this season,” he told BeIN Sports earlier in the campaign. “I was aware of his great capabilities when he was with me at Chelsea.
“He improved during his spell at Italy, became more mature and improved physically.
“Players need time to adapt to their new teams. Some of them remain and others prefer to move to another club. It is normal in football.”
Salah’s numbers this season are worth repeating, the blank against United at Anfield back in October one of few for both him and Liverpool.
In the Premier League alone, he has started all bar two of Liverpool’s 29 games – a substitute at home to Crystal Palace and absent from the win at Burnley – and has scored 24 goals and provided nine assists.
Whether he’d have been so successful in a more staid Mourinho team is debatable, although he isn’t alone in prospering in life after the Portuguese, Kevin de Bruyne the most prominent example.
But given Mourinho is so adept at setting up teams to thwart such attacking talent, it’s perhaps no surprise to discover how often it struggles to flourish under his tutelage.
That isn’t the case with Jurgen Klopp, a manager whose emphasis on aggressive forward play embraces Salah’s direct, speedy approach.
“Maybe now he works with managers who are more willing to give him more responsibility,” said former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba in a less than subtle dig.
He may not handed a Premier League medal at the end of his first full season at Liverpool
But Salah feels far more at home under Klopp than he ever did under Mourinho.