Mohamed Salah: "My future is in Liverpool’s hands"
Liverpool and Egypt superstar Mohamed Salah sat down with AS to discuss his childhood, his record ambition, his disappointments and his future.
The greatest footballer ever to come out of Egypt? One of the most prolific goalscorers in English Premier League history? If the answer to these two questions is ‘yes’ then the name of the man AS sat down with for a chat is not hard to determine. It is, of course, Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah.
2020 has been an exceptional year, primarily for the suffering caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting impact on global economies. The world of sport was also affected and there was a period during the summer when some believed the Merseyside Reds would not end their 30-year wait for a top flight league title because of the campaign being put on hold, and potentially voided. As we now know, a stunning 18-point winning margin was secured in July, and they are hungry to retain it.
The day after another win at fortress Anfield - this time against José Mourinho's Tottenham Hotspur and with the opening goal from Salah - we had a covid-safe meeting with the 28-year old who has climbed the footballing ladder. From Egypt to Basel to Chelsea to Roma...and now at Jürgen Klopp's record-breaking Liverpool.
Salah ponders more records and silverware with Liverpool
AS: Hello. It's a pleasure to have you here in your first exclusive interview with AS. You seem well, how are you?
Salah: Thank you. Yeah, I'm good. Thanks for having me.
AS: What a great match you played yesterday [against Tottenham Hotspur].
Salah: Yeah. It was a good game. Always tough to play against Spurs, yeah. In the end we win, that's the most important thing.
AS: Do you think you guys are favourites to win the Premier League?
Salah: I think it's a little bit early to say that, but yeah, we're doing good and other teams are also doing good. So hopefully we have a better chance to win it.
AS: One of your rivals is Mourinho's Tottenham. What do you think of them as a team and also of Mourinho?
Salah: I worked with him before, he's a great manager. He has helped Spurs a lot to be where they are now. He has good vision and he's a good coach. So I'm sure that they are doing a good job. They are second in the league now... so that's what I can say about them.
AS: Do you think you could win a third Golden Boot in the Premier League this year?
Salah: I don't know. I don't want to say that for now. But, yeah, I'm always trying to score goals to help the team to win the game. There's a good chance to be a third time top scorer again. But the most important thing is to win something, to win the big trophies with the team. That's the most important thing.
AS: You've broken lots of records with Liverpool. What other records are there still to break?
Salah: I think I have broken a few records, I wish I could break all the records for the club, that would be nice. But yeah, it's just like I said again, the team comes first before any record. But as much as you keep breaking records and winning games, that's great also.
AS: As well as the Premier League, Liverpool are also in the Champions League and have qualified for the next stage where you'll face RB Leipzig. How are you feeling about it?
Salah: I think over the last few seasons we've been doing good in the Champions League. I think also in the Premier League, as well. We had a good chance to win them both. Last season we were unlucky in the Champions League. We will fight for both this year, that's from my point of view that we will fight for both.
AS: What are your memories from the Champions League you won at the Wanda Metropolitano in Madrid?
Salah: It was a good memory to remember, it was a second final in a row. I was injured in the first one, but the second one we won, it's a great feeling. It's one of the most important moments in my life.
AS: Was the defeat to Atlético Madrid last season a tough one to take?
Salah: I don't think [about] the games like that, I don't think [about] the game like that. You just take one game at a time, just focus on the next game. Now, if we play against them next time, it would be nice. If not, it's OK. If you want to win the competition, you need to beat any opponent. We have to fight for each game. Let's see, let's see.
Real Madrid or Barcelona move not ruled out
Salah: I think Madrid and Barcelona are top clubs... We never know what is going to happen in the future, but right now I'm focused on winning the Premier League and the Champions League again with my club.
AS: How much longer do you see yourself playing for Liverpool?
Salah: [Laughs] That's a tough one, but right now I can say that everything is in the club's hands. Of course I want to break records here and, I repeat, every record in the club, but everything's in the hands of the club.
AS: Regarding the Champions League, we didn't mention about the last game where you were meant to be the captain, but in the end another player was chosen. How did you take it?
Salah: Honestly, I was very disappointed. I was expecting to be the captain... but it's a manager's decision, so I accept it.
Sergio Ramos and life after Cristiano-Messi
AS: When you played against Real Madrid in that Champions League final, Sergio Ramos unfortunately injured you. Do you think that experience made you stronger as a player?
Salah: I think everything that happens to a player, like disappointment or something, makes you stronger in your career for the future. But that, getting injured, is a closed subject for me, so I don't think about it any more.
AS: Which player do you think is going to replace Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in the future?
Salah: It's hard to say someone. It's really hard to say someone. There's some great players now, but what they did for football was unbelievable. So... Yeah, I can't mention any name, but I think what they did for football was great, and there's a few players that I think are doing good as well.
AS: Do you consider yourself as one of the best players at the moment?
Salah: Yeah, absolutely, yeah. [laughs] When I look back on my career, I want to feel that I achieved something special, that I did something special. So that's why I'm trying to give my best in every game and every year for the club, and for myself as well.
Salah destined to be a footballer
AS: Looking at your childhood, and where you came from, did you ever expect to be a star like you are now?
Salah: Expect where I am now, no. It's hard to expect that so early. I take it one step at a time, like when I was in Egypt just trained to play in Europe. Then I came to Basel and I said, 'no, I want to be in a bigger club' - Basel's a good club but I wanted to be in a bigger club. So I always take it one step at a time. When I went to Basel I said, 'I want to be the best player in their history.' And you just go one step at a time. I think it was a tough time, but it's made me strong.
AS: For you, what is the most difficult thing about having the life of a footballer?
Salah: It's a lot of things. You have to sacrifice a lot of things, a lot of things in your life, you have to dedicate all your life to football. That's one of the things you find. It's really hard because you sacrifice your life for football and also for me to change a little bit my mentality and to change things in my head that also takes time and takes energy from me. So it was a little bit tough in the beginning, but now you can just handle this situation and try to deal with it.
AS: Regarding the situation with coronavirus, how do you see it for everyone?
Salah: I think it's been hard, hard for everybody since the coronavirus started. But it's something we need to adapt to and something we need to live with it until it's over, hopefully soon. But we need to keep our distance. As famous people we need to live as an example, we have to really tell people to keep them on track and make them follow what the doctors say because it's a tough situation for everybody but hopefully it will be gone soon.
AS: Turning back to your childhood in Egypt, many children probably want to become a footballer. Did you always want to?
Salah: Yeah, I think I wanted to become a footballer when I was young. I wanted it very bad. Now people see that one of them, one of Egyptian people, has become famous, has got to that level. So I think now everybody wants their kid to be a footballer. But I'm always saying it's not just football. We have a lot of things you can be good at, like doctors or... Whatever you want to be, you can be at the top level as well. But yeah, when I was young that was my dream, just to be a footballer. And everybody, all the kids from Egypt and in Africa loves to play football.
AS: If you weren't a footballer, what do you think you would be?
Salah: It's a tough one, I was playing football when I was 10 or 11 years old, so all my life was just to be a footballer. I don't know really what could I do... It's so hard, I didn't even think about it a lot because since I was like 10 or 11 I was just playing football. I'd go to the club, I came back and when I was 14, I went to Cairo, came back. So all my life was just this so I don't really know what else could I do?
AS: What did the recent passing of Maradona mean to you?
Salah: It's sad news for everybody, as you can see, the world was in shock and everybody was sad. He was an inspiration for most footballers, or maybe all of them. He did something special, at Napoli and with the national team. It's sad to hear that news, but I just wish his family can feel better after a while and I wish... I don't really know what to say in this situation, but it's really sad news and I wish that the family feel better and better.
Spain and Egypt for international glory
AS: To end, I'd like to ask you about the European Championships. How do you think Spain will do?
Salah: I think Spain has a good team, a really, really good team. They have top players, they can win it again. It's been a while since they won it, but I think they have a good team and they have a big chance to win it.
AS: And with the African Cup of Nations, how do you think Egypt can do? Do you see them improving?
Salah: I think our national team, with our new coach, is doing good. We've almost qualified for the African Cup, which we haven't won for almost 10 years. Everybody is excited to win it again. We really want to win it for the people and for ourselves. Let's see, but I see there is improvement with the new coach and the team also. We are doing good, we have a good relationship together. Hopefully we can win it this time.
AS: Well, Mo, we always see you getting very involved in social and educational issues in Egypt. What does it mean to you?
Salah: Education is the key for everything, I think. I believe it could make you a better footballer and person in general. In my country, Egypt, I think it could change some things for the better.
AS: Ok, thank you so much for your time to meet with us. And we'd be delighted to welcome you to Spain whenever you want.
Salah: Thank you very much.