It’s happened all so quickly. The man who came to be amongst the increasingly illustrious group to have been bought and rejected by Chelsea Football Club has stamped his class on the Premier League, this time with the Merseyside club donning red. Mo Salah is his name, and speed is his game.
Born Mohamed Salah Ghaly on the 15th of June 1992, the man dubbed the Egyptian Messi has begun to live up to his lofty billing. It’s befitting of the manner in which he plays that his rise is close to meteoric. His travails in England began in January of 2014 when he was acquired by Chelsea, based in London, from Swiss Super League giants, Basel. The then 21-year-old was the effective replacement for Juan Mata who, after an accolade-laden period at Stamford Bridge, had seemingly overstayed his welcome in a Jose Mourinho team and had been scooped up by Manchester United for a fee just in excess of £37m
Juan Mata for Salah, really?
Here, Chelsea was buying a quicker left-footed player with the ability to get in behind defenses using his intimidating pace and acceleration rather than relying heavily on the intelligent movements à la the slower Mata. For the casual fan, the move wasn’t greeted with the most fervour. After all, the twice Chelsea player of the year and once named in the EPL team of the season, Mata, was in his prime. The fee of £11m didn’t inspire confidence in those who judge based off mostly, subjectively determined valuations of a player.
After a stop-start tenure in England’s capital that included 19 appearances in little over a season, a threat of being called into military service in his homeland, and some furor over his appearance to be a luxury squad player who was brought in to keep him out of the grasp of clubs like Liverpool, the Egyptian was moved on to Fiorentina on loan in a mass exodus of over 25 talented youngsters who were deemed not yet ready for a club of Chelsea’s stature.
On the Way Up
There, his stock rose quickly as he matured and gained more knowledge of how to use his powers for good. In 24 appearances in the league and Europa League, he notched seven goals and four assists. Not yet the finished article, but the loan policy seemed to be working in his case. What followed was a whole lot of controversy when Fiorentina attempted to activate an option to extend the loan spell, possibly with a further move to make it permanent. Salah and Chelsea steadfastly denied this.
Instead, the diminutive Egyptian locomotive joined another Italian club in AS Roma. His stock rose yet again during the 2015/16 season. His electric speed and increasing understanding of how to use this advantage reaped 14 goals and six assists in 34 appearances. The next season would bring him the validation of being named Roma’s player of the season. Then, he would rack up 15 goals and 11 assists in just 31 league appearances bolstered by a conversion rate of 23.4%, 71 chances created, 66 successful dribbles, and 22 tackles. That was finally a proper show of his class. That was the imprint he left on Italy.