Feet of Gold: The Mo Salah Story

The rise of Mohamed Salah over the last season has been monumental, to document it, here’s The Anfield Talk’s Robin (@robbiemac72) with Salah’s story.

Mohamed Salah Ghaly was born 15th June 1992 in the tiny village of Nagrig. It was an impoverished lifestyle he grew up in, money was scarce and football soon became his religion and escape from the harsh realities of life. Life in Egypt wasn’t easy with political turmoil under the leadership of Mubarak, who presided over almost 30 years of political oppression and State corruption.

Mo Salah playing for Egypt against Botswana at AFCON in 2015.

Like any child growing up Mo Salah loved to play with his friends and in particular, football. There was no PlayStation no iPhones back then. Just a ball and a group of friends playing ball every day after school. However as he grew into a teenager people began to notice how fast he was and the skills he had on the ball. He began to stand out from all the other players.

El Mokawloon

A club based in Cairo, 130km away from Salah’s home village began to show an interest in the lively fast paced Salah. He was faster in training than anyone else at the club. With the blessings of his parents he signed his first contract with the club at 14.

It was to become an incredible sacrifice to his academics studies as a daily journey to training meant leaving his village at 9am for that day’s afternoon training and wouldn’t get home till 10pm or 10:30pm five days a week. This was done for three to four years. Such determination and dedication to succeed shaped by the belief in him by his coaches who knew they had something special in the young Mohamed Salah Ghaly. When Salah broke into the first team at El Mokawloon he said, “it was for me and unbelievable moment and I couldn’t believe it. I was 16 years old.”

That same bloody minded determination has helped him reach the point where he is in his career at the moment. A PFA player of the year award and the Golden Boot and a Champions League Final. Not to mention a World Cup to look forward to with Egypt.

Salah during a Liverpool training session ahead of the UEFA Champions League Final against Real Madrid at NSC Olimpiyskiy Stadium on May 25, 2018 in Kiev, Ukraine.

Growing up watching Champions League football as a youngster with the Brazilian Ronaldo and Francesso Totti as his heroes Mo Salah was also well aware of Liverpool’s prestige in Europe.

His journey to where he is today wasn’t a straight forward one nor an easy one by any stretch of the imagination. The story of how he’s got to Liverpool is an inspirational one and one of sheer determination to be successful at the top. Thousands don’t make it.

The first time I remember seeing a 21 year old Mo Salah and taking notice of him was when he played for Basel in the Champions League against Chelsea and scoring against them. I didn’t take much notice of him after that as he joined Chelsea after Liverpool failed to lure him to Anfield and was swallowed up in the club like many great players do at Chelsea, Kevin De Byrne was another he eventually ended up with Manchester City.
Upon signing for Chelsea, José Mourinho said of Salah: “He’s young, he’s fast, he’s creative, he’s enthusiastic. When we analysed him, he looks like the kind of player with a humble personality on the pitch, someone ready to work for the team.” Mourinho went on to say that Salah has “similar qualities” with “talented players” that he had worked with, such as Gareth Bale and Arjen Robben.

Salah at Chelsea celebrating scoring the sixth goal that the Blues put past Arsenal.

Mo Salah struggled to fit into a team that had some powerful personalities and a strong dressing room of big egos. He was living in a foreign country with cold weather, different foods and lifestyle in Cosmopolitan London as a young man, just another squad player trying to break into the team. Then came the defining moves prior to Liverpool. He was loaned out to Fiorentina who adored him tried to keep him but Roma swooped in to sign him. His time spent in Italy made him into the player he is today. Shown adoration by the fans and managers he was loved and appreciated and respected by his teammates and found his career back on track again. He gave back what he received with his performances on the pitch which led to Liverpool signing the player on On 22 June 2017 for £34.3 million from AS Roma.

He was a risk for the club having failed to establish himself previously in the Premier League but what he’s done in his first season in incredible. Unprecedented even.

Klopp on signing Mo Salah, “I love his attitude – it is world class. So, the expectation is that he maintains the world class attitude that has helped make him such an important player in European club football.”

Mo Salah’s feet are made of gold and are firmly planted on the ground. There’s no airs and graces about him. Just a natural charismatic personality with a smile as wide as the River Mersey. Immortalized in song and revered by the fans after one magical season. The Egyptian King has indeed arrived. In our recent history we’ve acquired some great players like Fernando Torres from Athletico Madrid, Luis Suarez from Ajax and Coutinho from Inter Milan. However we’ve failed to hold onto them, all seeking dreams and greener pastures elsewhere. Is the fate of Mo Salah destined to be the same? Have we closed our ears to the Real Madrid whispers? One thing he has managed to achieve that the other players mentioned couldn’t, didn’t or wouldn’t was to create a unique bond with the people of Liverpool City and the fans.

Not even Roma were immune.

He’s unified the team and there lies the secret of his success and his biggest strength. His former comrades at AS Roma fondly embraced him in our game in Rome. He was widely respected and regarded as a nice guy who got on with his teammates and gelled the team together. Now he’s doing it for Liverpool.

Salah spoke about his relationship with his teammates.

“We are friends. Most of us will go out for dinner together or spend our time together. That helps us during games. We’re close to each other. We’re growing as a group, especially during the last couple of months.”

You cannot buy this. You may throw vast amounts of money at a player but if there’s no connection with the fans then we’re just another club till a better one come along. Salah believes in the dream, he knows and respects the history of the club, it’s unique affinity with the fans. The tragedy of what the club has been through.

The respect Liverpool has in Europe is enough for him to realise he’s home. If ever a player was tailor made for Liverpool it is Mo Salah. 32 goals in 36 Premier League appearances and 10 goals in 12 games in the Champions League is Roy of the Rovers stuff. History awaits Liverpool tonight in Kiev against 12 times winners Real Madrid with an unprecedented goal scoring trio of Firmino, Salah and Mane. Now is the time to become legends of the Kop.

Robin McNamara

Former journalist Insight Magazine Dublin & published poet. Currently work at Cartamundi Ireland. Liverpool fan since I was 10. Slowly embracing blogging or whatever this is.⚽️👍🏼✨

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