Mohamed Salah 21 Midfielder FC Basel Egypt
2013 has been…
A breakout year for an outstanding prospect. Picked up from Egyptian side Arab Contractors by Heiko Vogel and FC Basel after Port Said led to the cancellation of the Egyptian season in 2012, Mohamed Salah has come on in leaps and bounds.
There are few better ways to announce oneself on the world stage than becoming known for tormenting Chelsea, and Salah has done just that. A goal in defeat as Chelsea moved towards the Europa League final in 2012/13 was followed by a headline performance and deft finish as Basel surprised the Blues at Stamford Bridge in the Champions League in September.
Equally competent playing off a striker or on either flank, Salah is already a proven weapon for Yakin. Basel rarely go long but when they do it is Salah who is most dangerous feeding off Marco Streller. Streller, now the Basel captain and the team’s senior pro, has shown signs of being displeased with Yakin and the coach may not have the team’s full backing. Nevertheless, Salah has been able to shine and contribute to Basel’s Swiss Super League triumph in 2013.
Recent reports of Premier League interest, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool the most notable candidates, result as much from Salah’s international performances as those for his Swiss club. He played 11 games each for Egypt’s Under-20 and Under-23 sides before joining the senior team in 2011. He’s now approaching his 30th full cap and has a goalscoring record of better than one a game at international level.
His goals should have been crucial in qualification for next summer’s World Cup. He scored six times as Egypt cruised into the CAF playoffs with six wins from six games. Unfortunately, there is another six in play: the number of goals scored by Ghana as they demolished Bob Bradley’s Egyptian team in the first leg of the playoff to effectively end the Pharoahs qualifying hopes before the second leg even began.
Salah is most effective in a right-sided attacking position, from which he tucks inside to allow the overlapping full back to provide the width while he connects Basel’s often intricate play around the edge of the opponents’ penalty area like a conductor to an orchestra. His baton? The one-touch one-two, his pièce de résistance.
Salah is fast and has a great sense of urgency. He’s an instinctive creator with natural comfort on the ball, an asset to any side.
For all the brilliance, there are still some rough edges, as one would expect of a 21-year-old. Despite his superb international record it’s clear that he sometimes lacks composure in front of goal. He can also sometimes be over-ambitious in his dribbling, but he first thought is to give and go – even with his first touch – so this is but a minor snag in his game.
The outstanding performance in qualifying was, inevitably, a Salah performance. Three goals and an assist against Zimbabwe had Bradley purring. “Salah is the future of Egyptian football,” cooed the American coach, and a new future is required. Legendary Pharoahs stalwart Mohamed Aboutrika turned 35 in November and his retirement is imminent.
Salah is the heir to the throne. He and Aboutrika contributed the goals in World Cup qualification and both have been nominated for African Player of the Year; we’ll find out in January if UEFA’s Champions League trumps CAF’s for continental prestige.
Salah’s stepping into some mighty shoes but has demonstrated his worth already. The likelihood is that he will be poached sooner rather than later, and teams with stronger Champions League pedigree than Basel could be at the head of the queue. He should be wary of those advances because he is, with Basel, a vital fixture in European games. That won’t be true somewhere else straight away.
"As with all young attacking players with creative responsibilities, Salah’s future will be defined by the extent to which he can consistently provide a quality final ball and score a few goals of his own. Potentially a genuine star in the making, but, as he gets older, profligacy will be less easily ignored." - Chris Nee, IBWM
"In 2013, Salah went from relatively unknown to becoming the new poster boy of Egyptian football. Winning the league and guiding Basel to the semis of the UEFA Cup - while scoring against the likes of Spurs and Chelsea - is quite remarkable for a forward who was playing at Arab Contractors just a season prior. He's already surpassing last season's form and has arguably led Basel to the CL group stage single handed. 17 goals and 10 assists for the Egyptian national team isn't too shabby either." - Adam Moustafa, KingFut.com
"Mohamed Salah has scored in each of his last three appearances against Chelsea in European competition." - Opta
B A league title, international goals, Champions League displays