As we round up the international break and cast our minds to the league action set to get underway this weekend, I want to express my (and perhaps that of some others) huge relief at the end of the dreaded international break. It is one of the dullest periods ever witnessed by football fans. I’m so happy that it’s done and we can get back to the actual gripping business that is league football.
Some weeks ago, I wrote about having African Superstars in the game. Even though I was particular about having superstars from Nigeria, I’m happy with the African ones that we have. I want to talk about one in particular. Cast your mind back to the friendly game between Egypt and Portugal this last week. Yes, the star of the show was C.Ronaldo (as usual) and yes, it was because he scored two goals (including the winner) in the dying minutes…but I don’t want to talk about him. I want to talk about the other superstar who was seconds away from grabbing the headlines on the night…the man who opened the scoring (just as he has done on many occasions this season): Mohammed Salah.
I won’t be the last to rave about this guy; he’s been absolutely amazing this season. Take a look at the top of the scoring charts in the English Premier League and you find his name. A glance at the record for the most goals scored by a Liverpool player in his first season and you’ll find his name there. The first Liverpool player (since Suarez) to score 4 goals in a game? It’s him. The quickest player to reach 20 goals in a season? It’s him. The closest Ballon D’Or candidate since Eto’o? It’s probably him. The first African (since George Weah) to win it? I wouldn’t rule it out fam…I wouldn’t.
I remember when Chelsea signed him just so Liverpool wouldn’t. It was destined to be hard for him, simply because of the previously-stated reason. After some months, he was off to Italy (at a time when it was clear Liverpool no longer felt they needed him). A career reboot forced him back into focus which earned him the move to the place, it seems, where he was always destined to be.
I have to say that he surprised a lot of people this season. He has definitely taken this league by storm with the alarming rate at which he has scored goals. It’s like the huge money spent on various defenders and goalkeepers has been a waste; he really has been that good. Add the fact that he’s African, and you can sense the immense pride I have for him.
Liverpool are still in with a chance in the Champions League (hey hold on…until they’re out, shut it) and if they are to keep hold of that chance, they’ll need him to keep his form till the very end. His goals have been essential to their season so far. Even Vodacom are giving out free minutes to Egyptians for the subsequent times he will score this season; it’s that big a deal.
So who’s to say he can’t challenge for the Ballon D’Or? It is our hope that this year, we will see the start of a break in transmission of the Messi-Ronaldo FIFA Ballon D’Or Show. What better way than for an African to take it all this year. A World Cup year adds a bit of spice to it. He was a big part of Egypt’s qualification for the tournament and in a group having Russia, Saudi Arabia and Uruguay, they have every chance of making it out and becoming a surprise package in this year’s showpiece.
I know I’m overstretching the belief around the guy but he’s been so good that it’s hard to ignore anymore. He will win many awards for being the best player in England and in Africa this year, no doubt about that. If he continues to have a good year for Liverpool and for Egypt. Barring Argentina winning the World Cup (which hands Messi the gong automatically), you can never rule Salah out of anything, and that includes the Ballon D’Or.