For most players, the goal Mohamed Salah scored in Liverpool’s 5-0 demolition of Watford would have been a once-in-a-career moment. For the Egyptian, though, it was just another trademark strike. Indeed, it was only two weeks ago that Salah scored a similar goal against Manchester City.
There is no other player in world football capable of keeping the ball under control under such pressure and producing a goal. Salah plays with a unique combination of technical ability with the ball at his feet and upper body strength. Then there’s his eye for goal and consistency at finding the back of the net.
Salah isn’t just a great goalscorer, he is a scorer of great goals. The 29-year-old has been a giant of the English game for a number of years, but he is currently setting a new standard for himself. Salah might even be the best player in the world on the basis of his recent form - better than Lionel Messi, Robert Lewandowski and all the rest.
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Jurgen Klopp certainly believes this to be the case. “For sure right now the best player in the world,” the Liverpool boss commented after Salah’s stunning performance at Vicarage Road on Saturday. “Come on, we all see it - who is better than him at the moment? At the moment, there is nobody better in world football than him.”
With the nominees for the 2021 Ballon d’Or announced last week, the discussion around the best player in the world is particularly pertinent right now. The debate is also sharper than it has been for a number of years with Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo no longer the untouchable forces of nature they once were.
Messi might still add another Ballon d’Or to his collection - his fallow years are still better than most players can ever hope to achieve - but the likes of Karim Benzema and Jorginho are widely seen as genuine contenders to be crowned the best individual football player in the world for this year.
Timing might count against Salah, who is also a nominee, in the voting given that he has hit another level in the second half of 2021. What’s more, the Egyptian didn’t play at a major tournament like many of his Ballon d’Or rivals, something that carries a lot of weight in the assessment of candidates for the award (see Jorginho).
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But looking at the standard of the game’s great and good at this specific moment in time, Salah stands alone. He has scored in each of his last eight matches for Liverpool - the longest run of goalscoring performances for the Anfield club since Daniel Sturridge in February 2014.
Nobody has scored more Premier League goals this season than Salah (seven) with the 29-year-old also notching four assists for good measure. Liverpool look back to their fast and furious best and much of that is down to the influence of Salah. Opposition defenders have yet to find a way to stop him, as demonstrated by the number of Watford players who watched Salah’s goal on their backside.
The 2021 Ballon d’Or is unlikely to end up in Salah’s hands, but that shouldn’t mask how well he is playing right now. The Premier League hasn’t seen a forward perform at such a high level for a long time, perhaps since Cristiano Ronaldo’s first spell at Manchester United. Eden Hazard, Kevin de Bruyne, Sergio Aguero, Gareth Bale - none produced what Salah is producing at this moment.
It’s got to the point that Salah’s form is now transcending the Premier League and even his generation. Comparisons are being drawn with players around the world and players through the years. No matter the discussion, no matter the frame of reference, Salah measures up against anyone.
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