Here’s The Anfield Talk’s Ronan (@ronanorourke) with how missing out on Salah first time round was a blessing in disguise…
The 2013-2014 season was a special one for a variety of reasons. The swash buckling football of the Brendan Rodgers led title challengers was a team for the ages. The dynamic SAS duo of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge was nearly unplayable. They scored a hefty 51 goals combined in the league, and they were more than ably supported by Raheem Sterling, Steven Gerrard, Jordan Henderson and Philippe Coutinho pulling the strings in behind them. Few seasons have brought us fans of Liverpool Football Club so much pleasure and entertainment, especially in recent years.
There does remain a strong feeling of what could have been though. Not for Gerrard’s misfortune against Chelsea, nor for Henderson’s red card against Manchester City, and certainly not for the collapse against Crystal Palace. What has been almost a forgotten side note in the history of that spectacular season was that Rodgers was feverishly determined to sign a then little know winger in the January transfer window named Mohamed Salah from FC Basel.
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Instead, almost out of what I would consider pure spite. Jose Mourinho decided to intervene and snap up Salah for himself at Chelsea. Now, it is easy to assume that Mourinho bought him with no particular plan in mind about when he may ever use him regularly. But it is an assumption that I am happy to make. Mourinho definitely in my mind, signed Salah so we couldn’t get him. On paper this seems like a huge loss in the grand scheme of things. Can you imagine not just our 2014 side with Salah as an option, or even more importantly how critical Salah could have been the following year with Suarez gone and Sturridge in and out of the team with injury? Pretty mouth watering for sure.
I am firmly of the belief that everything in life happens for a very good reason. That reason being in this case that the Mo Salah we worship currently is not the same player that joined Chelsea back in that winter transfer window. He wasn’t the near complete article we are currently benefiting from. He showed flashes in his limited opportunities at Stamford Bridge but developmentally he wasn’t quite there just yet.
Salah needed the time spent in Italy to truly maximize his enormous potential. In a roundabout way, his brief spell at Chelsea almost certainly helped him in the long run as he knew very early on what he would need to be successful in the Premier League. Without that tough period, his rapid adaptation to the league this year may never have happened. He had three years in Italy to work on his game to improve and cater his style to the level we are now reaping the rewards from.
It is easy to look back as players as being absolute entities. However, we know of course that players progress at different rates and hit peak form at varying times in their careers. When a player is signed can completely change how useful they are to a team. This is perfectly illustrated with Mo Salah as we almost allowed him to iron out his deficiencies in Italy and he then came back to us as the fully cooked and lethal weapon version we know and love today. You could argue we experienced similar fortune in the timing of our Daniel Sturridge signing. He too had never been given a full opportunity until he arrived at Anfield and we know how well that paid off.
In many ways, what happened with Mo Salah is typically the ideal objective of the loan system. Teams send players out to gain valuable experience which will help them become an asset for their parent club. While we didn’t ever own Salah until last summer, the experience he had in Italy really couldn’t have worked out any better for us. Perhaps that was the plan all along?
Maybe not. But Brendan Rodgers again must be given some credit here. Many of Brendan’s signings went on to be integral squad members and quite a few are still here. The difference with Brendan and Jurgen Klopp is though that Klopp has had almost no failures in the transfer market while Rodgers did indeed have a few bad ones under his watch. Brendan really wanted Salah and he saw this potential in him years ago.
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Anyway though for those of us wishing we had signed Salah back in 2014, don’t worry anymore. It really wasn’t a missed opportunity but instead the perfect longterm outcome for the player and the club. Salah may well have continued his upward trajectory under Rodgers and later Klopp but it seems more likely that the failure that Salah experienced at Chelsea inspired him to greater things.
It is often thought that we can’t truly better ourselves unless we have failed at some point. The concept of not succeeding forces us out of our comfort zones and allows us to see what we need to do to improve. Not everyone uses failure as an asset to better themselves but the truly successful individuals most certainly see faltering not as defeat but instead as an opportunity to grow.
This quote from the basketball world sums up this phenomenon perfectly.
“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
NBA Hall of Famer Michael Jordan
Mo Salah used his difficult time at Chelsea to inspire a similar winning attitude that Michael Jordan undertook to become the legendary player he was. He embraced failure as the necessary stop on his journey to greatness. It is for this exact reason that the Mo Salah timeline went perfectly according to plan. And I am eternally grateful it did.