Editor’s Column: How Liverpool play the Mo Salah/Saudi Arabia situation smartly

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The Saudi Arabian clubs and their financiers – PIF – which is simply the financial investment arm of the government, don’t half have some cheek…

Firstly this summer, they tried to acquire our club captain Jordan Henderson for free. They thought we’d just give him away, despite him having two years left on his contract. Obviously, Liverpool scoffed at the idea and eventually got Al Ettifaq to cough up £12m.

Their attempts to sign Mo Salah, however, were even more absurd.

A first offer of around £100m was lodged in the days before the English transfer window shut. Why Liverpool would consider selling one of our best players of all time for what is nowadays a fairly normal transfer fee, without having the time to replace him, is anyone’s guess. They upped their bid to £150m, but Liverpool’s answer stayed the same. No.

Obviously we couldn’t sell our best player and essentially sacrifice a season in which we’ve started brilliantly. Maybe if they’d have made their offer early in the summer and Liverpool had time to replace him, it would’ve made sense to the owners at least, if not Jurgen Klopp, but they didn’t. They came in last minute and tried to bully us with their financial clout. Thankfully the club proved they can’t be shaken down for prized assets.

From a purely footballing and romantic perspective, I want Salah to stay with us his entire career. He’s currently on 188 goals and needs 40 more to overtake Billy Liddell into fourth place in our overall records. He needs a little under 100 more to overtake Roger Hunt in second; certainly not impossible if he stayed for another four or five seasons. Ian Rush’s 346 won’t be caught, but it’s important to note Salah’s games per goals (1.64) is far better than the Welshman’s (1.91).

On top of this, he’s still performing to a ludicrously high standard. He is a goal and assist machine. From the right-wing, he more or less guarantees 30 goals a season and double figures in assists. Even better, he’s never injured. Physically, Salah is a unicorn. He plays every game. Salah hasn’t missed a game through injury since the 2019/20 season.

He’s 31-years-old, and his insane pace is quietly diminishing, but he’s a better creator now. What you lose from Salah in-behind, you gain in chance-creation in front of the backline – and we’ve got speed-demons like Darwin Nunez and Luis Diaz in the team now who ease the burden of Salah’s acceleration.

So, he’s still one of the best players in the world. If the Saudis hadn’t entered the fray, we wouldn’t be having this conversation – and there’d be nobody speculating about whether it would be smart to ‘take the money’.

But money talks. Especially for our owners FSG, whose biggest dream ever would surely be to sell a player in his thirties for £200m+. The problem is though Liverpool fans assume this money would simply be reinvested into the playing squad. That’s just not how they work. The idea has always been that there is money available for the ‘right player’ – instead of going out and strengthening positions where we are potentially lacking. (Just look at the failure to buy a single defender this summer…)

After all, Liverpool had a £111m bid accepted for Moises Caicedo this summer. We didn’t get it over the line, but obviously the money is there – we just don’t spend it as much as the fans – or probably Klopp – would like.

A lot of the sense in selling Salah surely depends on this season. If he scores 30-40 goals and Liverpool 2.0 starts to grow into a side that can challenge Manchester City again, can you really put a price on him?

He’ll be 32 by the end of this season, but a 32-year-old Salah who is still scoring plenty might have four years left at the top, considering his insane fitness and no history of injury problems.

As a result, Liverpool should not sell in January and once next summer comes along, should only do so for ridiculous money. The kind of money that a European club couldn’t spend. We’re talking £200m-odd. Salah is worth it to the Saudi clubs. He’s the biggest player from the Arabic region football has ever seen – even if Egypt is in Africa. He’s a devout Muslim. He’s the number one priority for the Saudi project and remember, they have a bottomless pit of wealth. They should pay a ludicrous price to get him and if they want him as badly as they clearly do, Liverpool should ask for an unreasonable amount – a silly sum. I bet they’ll eventually pay it.

With £200m, plus the money we didn’t spend this summer during our supposed rebuild, Klopp can fill the remaining gaps, namely in defence.

Fans assume that we would simply use that money to replace Salah, but how can you? What other left-footed right-winger scores that many goals? There isn’t one in world football. The next best is maybe Bukayo Saka, who doesn’t get near to Salah in terms of output. Saka is world-class, but Salah is in a different league even to him.

So instead, Liverpool should buy a new right-back, a new centre-back and possibly even a new left-back considering Andy Robertson’s best days are behind him. We would need a new right-winger, so maybe a project player, like Johan Bakayoko of PSV could be signed. He’s 20 and turned down a deadline move to Brentford.

The £142m sale of Coutinho to Barcelona funded moves for Virgil van Dijk and Alisson and we never directly replaced the Brazilian. Perhaps a similar revamp might be necessary, especially considering the brilliance of the attackers who already play alongside Salah.

He’s the best and the most experienced, but Cody Gakpo, Diaz, Nunez and Diogo Jota are four of the most exciting forwards in the Premier League who could still shine without him.

I’d rather Salah stayed and the Saudis left him alone – and they’ve got no chance of signing him in January, either. Next summer though, selling £200m, when he’ll have one year left on his contact, might be our best option from a business point of view considering the other areas of the squad that require attention.

Maybe Mo will tell him them where to go, you never know.

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