Mohamed Salah is mastering the art of forcing his name into our conscience, into the most contentious debates and into top awards.
Halfway through the English Premier League season, Kevin De Bruyne was the odds-on favourite for Player of the Year in England.
Yet after Christmas, the Egyptian chunked that away game after game, with every chip, every delicate finish, every goal and every assist. It is credit to just how well he has done that while there are those convinced the Belgian deserved the credit for the top player in England’s top flight, the voices of dissent have been largely muted.
A few days after picking up that award, Salah has elevated the debate about how good he is to another level. It is no longer a debate about whether he is the best in England. It is whether he has a claim to be called the best in the world after he obliterated his former club AS Roma with his runs, chips, goals and assist on another magnificent European night at Anfield.
Even before those heroics that has set Liverpool on the path to a first Champions League final in nine years the President of the Confederation of African Football Ahmad Ahmad stoked the debate when he declared that “it is not Messi who is the best now, it is Salah.”
The African football capo also claims that if Liverpool win the Champions League, then Salah could genuinely be considered in the top three of world football and a place in the final Ballon d’Or shortlist.
He was mocked by some. That was before the Champions League semi final when Salah decided it was his night. He scored with a curling shot from the edge of the break AS Roma’s resistance. Then put through by Robert Firmino, he delicately chipped Alison for a second, unselfishly set up Firmino for a tap-in and aided Sadio Made in breaking his duck.
As he came off at Anfield to a standing ovation and chants of Salah, Salah, the hype was getting insane on social media. All of a sudden the idea of mentioning Salah in the same breadth as Messi didn’t seem so ridiculous.
Former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard said “without a shadow of a doubt, he is the best player on the planet right now.”
It is a mark of just how good Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are that, comparisons to them is considered a “taboo”, “sacrilege”. They live on a different planet, the rest compete amongst themselves. It is a mark of how good a player is when he is mention in similar context to the two. Often that has been Neymar. On Tuesday night, Salah added his name to that conversation. How long his name remains in the mix will depend on how well he keeps grabbing the headlines.
On Tuesday, it wasn’t just about the goals and assist. It was that he had the personality to dominate an European Cup semi final in that manner. He towered over everybody. It is no coincidence that Roma’s best moments came when he was off. It is the sort of form that made him the top scoring African in a single English Premier League season, top scorer across Europe’s top leagues and led to belief across the continent that he could become only the second African winner of the best player in the world tag.
Of course he is no Messi yet. Even the suggestion that he is better than Messi NOW is questionable. But he does remind us of Messi. The number of goals he has scored, 43 is on a Messi and Ronaldo level. And there is something about the pace, the quick thinking, movement, touch, dink and unselfishness that reminds you of the little Argentine. No wonder they call him the Egyptian Messi.
Nights like Tuesday are prone to social media hype, exaggeration and brief but exalted status. Having consistently battered opponents this season, Salah is no hype though neither is there anything exaggerated about the fact that he belongs to special company.
By Michael Oti Adjei|3news.com|Ghana