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Mo Salah: The Rise of the Egyptian King

Mohamed Salah will hope to fire Liverpool towards a place in the Champions League final when they host his former club AS Roma in their semi-final first leg on Tuesday.

It has already been an incredible season for the Egyptian striker.

On Sunday, Salah was named Professional Football Association (PFA) Player of the Year.

Decided by a vote of professional players, it is one of the most coveted awards in English football.

Salah has scored 41 goals in all competitions this season so far.

He is on track to break Ian Rush’s all-time club record of 47 for a domestic campaign in 1983/84.

The 25-year-old has also attained national hero status, leading Egypt through qualification for the the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia, where they are considered as potential ‘dark horses’.

So how did Salah become one of the hottest properties in the modern game?

Humble Beginnings

Salah’s formative years in football began with Cairo-based top flight side El Mokawloon SC.

As a youngster, Salah made daily three-hour round trips from his Nagrig village to the club’s base in the Cairo suburbs.

He played in the Egyptian Premier League for two seasons with Mokawloon.

And a friendly match for the Egypt U-23 side ahead of the London 2012 Olympics propelled the player into the spotlight of European club football.

Olympic preparation

Swiss side FC Basel had first spotted Salah’s talents at the 2011 U-20 World Cup in Colombia.

In March 2012, Basel organised a friendly to help the Egyptian Olympic team prepare for the London Games.

Salah impressed so greatly that Basel signed him the following month.

The club’s former chairman Bernhard Heusler later told Sky Sports, “Salah only played in the the second half but I had never seen a player with so much speed.”

“I will never forget what I saw on the pitch that day” – former FC Basel chairman Bernhard Heusler on Mo Salah

London 2012

Egypt went 3-0 down to a Brazil side including Neymar, Marcelo and Thiago Silva in their London 2012 debut.

Head coach Hany Ramzy brought on Salah as a second-half substitute and he scored their second goal as they were beaten 3-2 by the eventual runners-up.

Salah then started against New Zealand in front of 55,000 at Old Trafford.

He again found the target to earn a 1-1 draw and keep their Olympic dream alive.

Egypt needed a win in their final group game against Belarus at Glasgow’s Hampden Park to reach the quarter-finals.

And the 19-year-old Salah was instrumental, scoring the first of three-second half goals in a 3-0 victory which sent the ‘Young Pharaohs’ through.

They were underdogs against Japan in the last eight, again at Old Trafford.

After going a goal down, Egypt had Saad Samir sent off just before half-time.

And two late goals for the ‘Blue Samurai’ saw Egypt go out 3-0.

Conquering Europe

Salah’s solid performances helped Basel to two consecutive league titles.

But two dazzling displays against Chelsea in the 2013/14 Champions League thrust him into the limelight.

The Londoners signed him in January 2014 but he struggled to make an impression.

Under Jose Mourinho, Salah made just six Premier League starts before being sent on loan to Italian side Fiorentina in February 2015.

Living up to his nickname ‘the Messi of Egypt’, Salah scored six goals in his first seven games.

While the deal was for 18 months, Salah refused to return to Florence in the close-season and was loaned to Serie A rivals AS Roma.

He quickly established himself in the capital with 14 league goals in the 2015/16 campaign.

Salah made a permanent move to the Stadio Olimpico ahead of the 2016/17 season and then scored 15 goals in 31 league appearances.

Salah’s a Red

But then Liverpool came calling and the Giallorossi were unable to resist a club record 42-million-euro transfer bid in June 2017.

The forward has gone from strength to strength at Anfield under Jurgen Klopp.

In January, Salah was named 2017 African Player of the Year and his goals have propelled the Reds to the Champions League semi-finals.

Once idolised in the red half of Rome, Salah will be a marked man on his return to the Eternal City.

 

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