His performances in October are having many asking the question: Is Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah the best player in the world today? Even better than Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi?
Liverpool’s Egyptian striker continues to shine for Liverpool. Before the international break he made headlines for his world-class goal and assist against Manchester City, showing off the combnination of speed, skill and game-breaking ability that is unique among the top players in the world. He was back at it in Liverpool’s first match after the international break against Watford with a spectacular assist on Liverpool’s first goal.
With nine goals and four assists in 10 appearances across all competitions this season, and a share of the Premier League scoring lead (tied with Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy), it’s a surprise that the conversation around Salah has taken this long to surface. But everyone took notice of Salah’s performance against Man City; NBA star Lebron James, who’s a minority owner of Liverpool:
Before the international break, Salah had a seven-match scoring streak in all competitions, equaling his longest scoring streak for the club. And he’s showing no signs of slowing down.
Mo Salah shining for Liverpool
The assist that Salah dished out on Liverpool’s opener at Watford on Oct. 16 was the latest sign of a player in top form:
It comes on the heels of his Oct. 3 performance against Manchester City in which no one will forget the solo effort on the goal he scored to give Liverpool a momentary 2-1 lead (the match finished 2-2). Some are calling it the best goal of the Premier League season and there are 30 matchdays left to go. His quick feet, acceleration and precision on the finish were exhilarating:
“This club never forgets anything and people will talk about this goal for a long, long time, and in 56 years when they still remember this game,” Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp later said in his postgame press conference.
“It is not the first goal [Salah] has scored like this,” Klopp told BBC Radio 5 Live. “It is pure world-class. What a player. He set up the first goal as well for Sadio [Mane] and it was great goal as well.”
Jurgen Klopp: “If Leo Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo score that goal then the world says it’s world class. He [Salah] is one of the best players in the world, that’s how it is.” #awlive [pa] pic.twitter.com/GRVpaJWDKi
— Anfield Watch (@AnfieldWatch) October 3, 2021
Salah’s assist to Mane in the same game showcased many of the same attributes that were present on his goal. The skill, the footwork and the level of decision-making and execution are rare and remarkable even at this level:
Is Mo Salah the world’s best player today?
Salah is getting it done so far this season and his goals have helped Liverpool stay undefeated in all competitions (7-0-3), outscoring opponents 28-9. He’s not doing it alone — teammates Mane (six goals) and Diogo Jota (three goals) have also compiled solid numbers and expected goals/assists — but Salah is consistently coming up with game-breaking plays as evidenced by his seven-game scoring streak.
Are there other players in better form than Salah at the moment? In the top five European leagues, a handful of players are enjoying outstanding starts to their season. Here are some of the obvious names that might be included in that group (listed in alphabetical order with stats covering all competitions in 2021-22):
|Karim Benzema||Real Madrid||10||7|
|Erling Haaland||Borussia Dortmund||11||4|
|Robert Lewandowski||Bayern Munich||13||1|
|Cristiano Ronaldo||Manchester United||5||0|
With 36-year-old Ronaldo and 34-year-old Messi still finding their way with new teams this year, this could be the season in which Salah eclipses them in the minds of fans around the world who immediately think Messi and Ronaldo when the topic turns to best active player today.
The scene is ripe for a new player to step up and grab the mantle that Messi and Ronaldo have held for years. Many expect young forwards Haaland and Mbappe to battle for it, and few hold Salah in the same regard. Performances like the one against Manchester City and a title or two this season could permanently change that narrative.
On current form, Mohamed Salah is the best in the world.
— Jim Beglin (@jimbeglin) October 3, 2021
Has Mo Salah ever been the world’s best player?
The 29-year-old Salah was a good enough player to earn a transfer to Chelsea (2014) and later to Italy’s AS Roma (2016), where he began to show glimpses of the elite talent he could become. He entered the conversation of the world’s greatest players after joining a Liverpool team (2017) that would bring out the best in him.
He finished third in the race for the 2018 FIFA World Player of the Year award behind Luka Modric (Croatia, Real Madrid) and Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal, Juventus). That was the same year Salah was recognized as the Premier League’s top player after claiming his first of two consecutive top scorer awards. He also won his second African Player of the Year honor in 2018.
But even though Liverpool won the UEFA Champions League and Premier League titles over the two following seasons — team awards are important when it comes to individual honors — the conversation of best player in the world saw Salah come in behind the usual names, such as Messi, Ronaldo, Lewandowski and Liverpool teammate Virgil Van Dijk, who were the top vote-getters for the global awards in those years.
“Salah could fit into any team in the world, in the history of football. He’s the real thing and beyond.” [Sky] pic.twitter.com/7S1a02Gc7C
— The Anfield Talk (@TheAnfieldTalk) October 3, 2021
Based on what has already been accomplished in this calendar year, the 2021 FIFA Player of the Year award is expected to go to Chelsea midfielder Jorginho (Euros 2021 with Italy, UEFA Champions League with Chelsea) or Bayern’s Lewandowski (more than 50 goals in 2021). Salah probably won’t be able to do enough in the next couple of months to surpass them. But 2022 could be another story.
If Liverpool and Salah keep up their special season, there’s no reason he can’t find himself in that award conversation once again. And when it comes to the unoffical title of best player in the world today, he’s already on the tip of people’s tongues.