Robbie Fowler: “Salah isn’t going to renew with Liverpool”
Legendary Liverpool striker Robbie Fowler explains why the Reds won’t break their wages structure just to keep Mo Salah at the club.
Mohamed Salah’s future has been the subject of much debate in Liverpool and with the player just a few days away from entering the final year of his contract at Anfield, and with no sign of being resolved soon, it’s a matter that will continue to run over the course of the summer. It’s a situation which the club anticipated and have made provisions for - whether Salah stays or leaves. Unlike Salah, Sadio Mané decided against seeing out the final 12 months of his contract with the Reds and joined Bayern Munich - but at least Liverpool recouped most of what they paid for him in 2016. Salah, on the other hand, has confirmed that he will still be a Liverpool player next season - even though he hasn’t renewed, and if nothing changes between now and January, he will be able to start negotiating with other clubs and leave this time next year with the club not receiving a penny.
Few players end up running down their contract to leave on a free at Liverpool - especially star players. The most recent case was Gini Wijnaldum, who rebuffed the club’s proposal to renew terms and left Anfield for PSG last summer. Wijnaldum may have got a better deal in Paris financially, and added a Ligue 1 winners’ medal to his honours list, but he’s now playing less - last season, he clocked 1,993 minutes on-field in four competitions - half the amount he racked up in his last season at Anfield.
Whether Salah, or his agent, is gambling on riding out this season and securing a more profitable deal for 2023/4 is anyone’s guess. Robbie Fowler, who has watched the Egyptian devour many of his club records over the past five years, says he’s in the dark about Salah’s situation but knows how the club works well enough to have an idea about how they will tackle it.
Liverpool and Salah stalemate
In his column for the Mirror, Fowler explained why he thinks Salah is no closer to agreeing new terms with Liverpool. “I won’t pretend to know what’s going on with his contract, but clearly the answer is: nothing much. And that leaves so many questions unanswered. One thing is obvious, the club has done some very clear, precise and unemotional calculations with Mane. He’s 31 in April, has a huge amount of running in his legs, and wanted a huge contract as one of the best players in the world,” Fowler wrote, adding, “I don’t blame him for that. Mané is the equal of virtually every world class star at the moment, and rightly wanted that recognition with the going rate for the last big contract of his career.
“Liverpool though, obviously ran their own analytics - which to their credit they do so well - and decided selling him to buy Darwin Núñez and keep their wage structure in place was the right thing for the club. It begs the question, what calculations have they run on Salah?”
He continued, “I don’t know all the answers, but what screams out to me is they won’t be breaking their wage structure to keep him. If they were prepared to do that, it would have happened by now. But look, I can’t blame Salah for wanting the going rate, just like Mané did. He’s the Premier League Golden Boot winner, he’s the Footballer of the Year and in with a great shout of the Ballon d’Or top three. If my old club are running complex calculations, then so too is Salah - and it can never be a precise science. I think him saying no matter what happens with his contract, he’ll be at Anfield next year was clearly a threat. What he’s suggesting there is - give me the money or lose me for nothing. Which is fair enough. That can work, often does. But there’s another calculation, which I’m inclined to believe Liverpool are currently running. Will he still be the same player next summer?”
Salah’s attempts/goals ratio
Salah ended last season as the top scorer in the Premier League, sharing the Golden Boot with Tottenham’s Son Heung-min. Taking a closer look at Mo’s league figures from last season, he had a total of 139 attempts on goal, 55 of those were on-target, 41 were off-target and 43 were blocked. Compare those figures to Son’s and the Spurs forward appears to be far more effective: 86 attempts on goal, 48 on-target and 20 wide of the mark. Klopp’s technical department have the performance analytics of everyone in the squad and obviously want to make the team less wasteful.
Fowler concurs, “He’s been one of the best in the world for a long time now. But since the turn of the year, he’s been, by his standards, pretty average. Look at his goals record - six from open play in the whole of 2022, a lot of missed chances, some heartache in the Champions League final when he could have won it - and probably the Ballon d’Or along with it. So he and Liverpool must ask: is that temporary because of the punishing schedule and his exertions for Egypt? Or is time catching up with him? That’s the question other potential suitors must ask too, if and when he becomes available. Can he stay at the summit of world football well into his 30s, or will he begin to fade? I have to confess that I’m beginning to believe Liverpool are concerned it will be the latter, otherwise they’d have done more over a new deal. And maybe they’re waiting now to see how he starts next season. It’s a tougher calculation than Mané's, because they don’t appear to have the option to sell him.
“Who knows what Núñez will do. If he scores 30 goals next season like he did in Portugal last time, then Liverpool can probably replace Salah more easily, as they’ll already have a world class finisher. If he struggles, or Salah is on fire, then they have a massive decision to make. It can go either way - for both sides, which makes it so fascinating. In the end, all players have to leave, Salah will have to be replaced. Eventually. Liverpool have been good at doing that on their own terms in recent years. This one though, is the toughest of the lot”.