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Mo Salah - The Egyptian King!

He’s been making up for lost time since returning to England’s top flight – now Liverpool’s scoring sensation is busy making sure the Kop won’t miss Coutinho before leading his country at the World Cup.

Mohamed Salah looks up and notices a football hurtling unexpectedly towards him. He immediately adjusts his body weight onto his tiptoes and kills it dead with his left foot. He lifts his head, with its mop of curls, already scouting his next move. A stunned silence greets the Liverpool winger’s outrageous first touch.

A second football is fired into Salah’s path. Again he moves adroitly to control it in an instant, and again the Egyptian star considers his options. Instead of hushed amazement this time, however, the gathered throng rises in delirious rapture.

Why the differing reactions? The latter prefaced Salah firing Liverpool 4-1 up against Manchester City, chipping keeper Ederson 68 minutes into the Reds’ win against the unbeaten Premier League leaders and sending 50,000 febrile fans into ecstasy at Anfield.

The former had taken place 48 hours earlier – on a biting mid-January morning in front of no more than a dozen people – as Salah entered the 1980s chandelier-lined Sapphire Suite at Stockport County’s near-empty Edgeley Park for his debut FourFourTwo cover shoot. He then proceeded to perform a few indoor keepie-uppies, while wearing football boots, on the fading, threadbare carpet.

FFT’s exclusive aperitif to the main course that would be served up two days later showcased his instinct. In full flow he barely thinks – he just ‘does’. Everything comes naturally to Mohamed Salah in 2018.

Three and a half years ago, though, Salah’s situation in English football couldn’t have been more different. A shot 40 minutes into a 2-1 League Cup Fourth Round win at Shrewsbury Town summed up the Egyptian’s Chelsea spell. Bereft of game time under Jose Mourinho (below), Salah attempted a shot on goal after cutting inside from the right wing onto his favoured left foot. It went out for a throw-in.

That goal against Man City was Salah 2.0’s 24th in all competitions in 2017-18, only six months after his return to the Premier League having excelled at Fiorentina and Roma in Serie A. His £37 million transfer fee already looks like the bargain of the summer. Salah is one of only three players (with Kevin De Bruyne and Harry Kane) in the running for Player of the Year honours, his form such that Philippe Coutinho’s departure to Barcelona will not affect Liverpool unduly.

Words Andrew Murray

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