Mohamed Salah's four-goal masterclass vs. Watford has him in prime position to win the Premier League's golden boot. How has the Egyptian star become such a breakout star?
Mohamed Salah has been a revelation this season, scoring goals in bunches for Liverpool and helping the Reds secure a place in the Champions League quarterfinals. He was at it again over the weekend, with his four-goal masterpiece against Watford firing him to the top of the Premier League's scoring charts. With Harry Kane out injured, and the next closest player, Sergio Aguero, seven goals behind, it looks like it's Salah's race to win.
This all comes on the heels of him leading Egypt to its first World Cup since 1990, and with the superstar primed for an even bigger breakout on the international stage this summer, it's worth taking a look at how he's gotten into "the zone" and become one of the most unstoppable players on the planet.
We discussed Salah and his breakout year on the latest Planet Fútbol Podcast, which also touches on how to fix domestic cup competitions overseas, the latest in MLS and the Concacaf Champions League, the U.S. men's national team's Pulisic-less roster and more. You can hear the discussion about Salah at the 2:16 mark in the podcast console below, and you can subscribe to and download the podcast on iTunes here.
GRANT WAHL: Mohamed Salah, four more goals this weekend for Liverpool, I think he's in a zone right now that few players ever get in in their career. This has been a season-long thing for him at Liverpool, it is a situation where he is one of the top candidates for world player of the year, and I'm wondering, based on not having seen this from Mohamed Salah in seasons prior to this one, how did this happen?
BRIAN STRAUS: You're right. The guy is in a zone the likes of which few players in any sport ever attain, but at the same time, it is something that known. It is something that is talked about. It is something that is pondered. When everything goes in. And that can happen in any sport, right? There are soccer, hockey and basketball players where for whatever reason in a given stretch, everything they touch goes in, and it's glorious. He's in it right now and it's got Liverpool in position to qualify for the Champions League and win the Champions League and it's awesome to watch.
He's got an amazing story. His connection to Bob Bradley [with Egypt] is very cool, but this is something that we were talking about before we were recording. There are other players who sort of emerge, pop up as guys who all of a sudden couldn't stop scoring goals and sort of cemented themselves in a different category. We brought up guys like [Antoine] Griezmann and Kane and [Jamie] Vardy. There are names of players who come from nowhere, so to speak, and it clicks for them, and it's awesome. It's a lot of fun to watch. There's nothing bad to say about it.
GW: I think a lot of this has to do with Mohamed Salah, I think a lot of this has to do with Jurgen Klopp, having a system that fits Salah's game extremely well. Klopp is a guy who, if I was a player, I think I'd love to play for that guy. The high-energy stuff, if you work your ass off and play well, you will continue to get opportunities, it doesn't matter who you are. That front three gets a lot of chances, all of them, it seems like, just about every game.
BS: Except that one game against Manchester United! That was the outlier. But you're right, otherwise, they get those high turnovers, they press, they're frenetic. And if you're a striker, you want nothing more than there to be mayhem in the attacking third, for the ball to be bouncing around the penalty area, and if you've got the skill Salah does to turn those half chances into full chances, you're going to get your goals.
I'm glad you brought up Klopp, because I love the video–there's always at the end of a game in England there's the camera guys that sort of run onto the field and catch reactions and tape the players talking with their hands over their mouths–and Klopp is running around giving people these ridiculous hugs, and he's so fired up and so enthusiastic and I can't think of anything better when you're playing than to get that sort of affirmation from your coach. ... I can't imagine not being thrilled playing for a coach that gives you that kind of emotional feedback and commitment. It's awesome. I get fired up sitting on my couch watching it.
GW: And when Liverpool wins Champions League and Egypt wins the World Cup, I think that might clinch world player of the year for Mohamed Salah.
BS: Nah, Ronaldo will still win. (Laughs)
GW: Right now it's just fun to watch that team. I know Liverpool's defending can be terrible sometimes, but the chemistry that front three has, they play for each other, you're going to see something cool just about every game, that Man United game excepted, and I'm really fired up to see Liverpool and Salah play against Man City in the Champions League.