By Mark Luglio
For the past few months I’ve quietly been watching Mohamed Salah tear apart everyone who steps in Liverpool’s way, all the while patiently waiting for the appropriate time to unveil this opinion. Upon Liverpool’s qualification for the Champions League Final, I concluded that the waiting has gone on long enough. Mo’s historic individual form and the success that he’s brought to Liverpool has earned him admiration from writers, fans, and fellow footballers; however, there’s one level of admiration that has yet to come for the one they call the “Egyptian King”-the 2018 Ballon d’Or. Though the race for this prestigious award is seemingly as tight as can be, Salah isn’t very far from making himself a shoo-in. In discussions regarding individual awards, objectivity goes out the window until the true winner is revealed; so with that being said, here’s a subjective thought piece telling you how Mo can lock up this race and why you should join the Salah 2018 bandwagon while you still can.
Following Liverpool’s second leg at Roma, Salah told Jamie Carragher that after his first unsuccessful stint in the Premier League with Chelsea, everyone was saying “Blah, blah, blah,” and that his return was rooted in his desires to prove the league wrong; and prove he did. In his first season after returning to England, Mo has put out one of the best years of individual play that the Premier League has ever seen. I can say without a shadow of a doubt that it’s been the best attacking performance by a winger in the league since Ronaldo’s Manchester United days. In the 2017-18 campaign, Salah is a three-time player of the month and PFA Player of the Year. He’s scored the most goals in the league by a long shot, and is shattering long-standing league records for scoring. After just one year he has earned himself regards as one of the best African footballers to ever play in the Premier League. And, as we saw just days ago, he has helped carry the Reds to the UCL Final. Does all of this constitute a Ballon d’Or for Mo?
Again, the race for the 2018 honor is certainly a close one. Salah, De Bruyne, Ronaldo, and Messi are probably the top candidates. I’ve said that Mo can make himself the undisputed winner before the trophy is even presented, but how does he do this? Well simply, first Liverpool must walk out of Kiev with a European Cup in their hands. Manchester City’s De Bruyne was knocked out of the UCL by Salah, even though he plays on one of the best teams to ever conquer English football. The lifelong Barcelona star Messi, was knocked out and hardly showed up to the second leg at Roma, Salah’s former squad and the most recent group to fall to Liverpool. If Ronaldo and Real Madrid can’t take down the Reds side in Kiev, then that means that Salah has proven his dominance over the UCL, a dominance greater than that of De Bruyne, Messi, or Ronaldo. A Champions League title for Mo would mean that he carried a Liverpool team, that is clearly a step below these other clubs, past all them and through the most competitive field in soccer. A European Cup and PFA Player of the Year clearly would confirm Salah’s worthiness. However, this year the Ballon d’Or candidates will travel to Russia for the 2018 World Cup. Kevin De Bruyne is the glue of the Belgian side, a very serious contender this year. Messi, obviously, is the means by which Argentina will make their run this summer. Ronaldo, as always leads his Portugal squad with hopes of locking up a world title to add to his wide array of trophies. But then there’s Salah, the brightest light on an otherwise dim Egypt side.
Hopefully the passive point that I’ve been trying to introduce here is clear, but in case it’s not, I’ll spell it out. The three other candidates for the trophy are members of three of the heaviest favorites in Russia, as well as the perennial heaviest favorites in the European Cup and their respective domestic leagues. Yes, I do concede that a World Cup victory for any of these other candidates would be an incredible accomplishment for them and their countries. But, can we really award any of them the best footballer of the year award for losing in the Champions League and winning the World Cup on sides that were expected to make a deep run in each? I say no. The clear difference between the candidates is simple. The others are with clubs and countries that put them on a bigger stage that is geared for their success, whereas Salah has done more than them in a much less privileged situation. I maintain that no reward is necessary for a player who wins, or almost wins, with a club and country that is expected to do just that-win. A deserving winner is one who thrives individually and propels a club and country that are less favored.
No player in the world has made a greater difference for their club this year than Mohamed Salah. He’s done all he can and more individually to earn the Ballon d’Or, all that’s left is the question of true success with club and country. In summation, if Liverpool wins the European Cup and Mo continues turning heads in Russia this summer, there shouldn’t be any more questions. The King of Egypt will soon be the King of Soccer.
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