The message from Jurgen Klopp was clear: nothing to see here.
No bumper bid from Al Ittihad, no indication from Mohamed Salah that he’s unsettled and wants to end his six-year stay at Liverpool.
“100 per cent,” said Klopp was asked if he felt the Egyptian attacker was still fully committed to the club.
If only it was that straightforward to draw a line under it and move on. The reality is that this is just the start rather than the end of the story.
Liverpool have long since known that the Saudi Pro League are desperate to add the most famous Arab player in world football to their growing stable of global superstars. They also know that when faced with resistance, the Saudis simply return to the negotiating table with the promise of even greater riches in an attempt to win over their target.
Al Ittihad interested in Salah move; Klopp: He’s ‘100%’ committed
“If we considered leaving LFC this year, we wouldn’t have renewed the contract last summer. Mohamed remains committed to LFC,” the player’s agent Ramy Abbas posted on social media on August 7.
That was in response to Al Ittihad’s initial pursuit of Salah. A fortnight later and with the Saudis intensifying their interest, there’s been silence from both the player and his representative.
They could have dismissed growing speculation in the Middle East that Salah wants to leave after being offered a lucrative contract worth a reported £1.5million ($1.9m) per week, but have so far chosen not to.
Liverpool know from the departures of Jordan Henderson and Fabinho earlier this summer that the Saudis only open talks with a club over a transfer fee after an agreement is in place with the player.
So what happens in the coming days if Salah demands a move and Al Ittihad back that up with a bid in the region of £100million ($126m)?
Liverpool insist it would be instantly rejected. Their position is that Salah, who is under contract until the summer of 2025, is simply not for sale and rightly so, given the timing.
If this scenario was unfolding in June or July there would be a sensible debate to be had over the best way forward. There is certainly a business case for suggesting that banking £100m for a 31-year-old with two years left on his contract, who has given you six remarkable seasons of service, would make sense. For a club with a self-sustaining business model, that would be some windfall to reinvest into the squad.
But not now, not with just a week to go until the transfer window shuts. There simply isn’t enough time to recruit a suitable alternative.
Henderson and Fabinho were granted the moves they wanted because it was mid-July and they were replaceable. They were past their best and their influence on Klopp’s side had waned dramatically.
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That’s not the case with Salah. For all the talk about him not being at his dazzling best last season, he still managed 30 goals in all competitions and 16 assists in 2022-23. Those are the kind of numbers most elite attackers can only dream of. For context, Darwin Nunez was Liverpool’s second top scorer on 15, while Andy Robertson was second in terms of assists on 11.
Even now he is rewriting the Anfield record books, with his goal in the victory over Bournemouth last weekend taking him past Steven Gerrard into fifth place outright in the club’s all-time list of goal scorers on 187.
Physically, Salah is also showing no signs of slowing down, missing a total of four league games over the past three seasons. Goals, creativity and durability are guaranteed with him. Klopp was not exaggerating when he said today that Salah “is essential, was and will be.”
The void left by him would be vast.
Liverpool have previous for standing firm. Rewind to the summer of 2017 and Philippe Coutinho infamously tried to force through a move to Barcelona late in the window by submitting a transfer request. It was rejected and he ended up staying put. He was sold six months later on Liverpool’s terms, the £142million fee effectively paying for the transformational acquisitions of Virgil van Dijk and Alisson.
Yet there is no doubting the possible allure of a move to Saudi for Salah. As well as potentially quadrupling his £350,000-per-week salary, there’s also the appeal of living in a Muslim country for Salah given his religion.
At Al Ittihad, he would be reunited with Fabinho, while Karim Benzema and N’Golo Kante would also be teammates. The Saudi champions will be competing in the Club World Cup on home turf in December and want Salah on board for it.
Of course their interest coincides with Liverpool coming to terms with life outside the Champions League for the first time since 2016-17.
When Klopp’s side missed out on the top four in May, Salah declared himself “totally devastated” and insisted there was “absolutely no excuse” and that they had “let themselves down”.
He certainly cut a frustrated figure when he was substituted at Stamford Bridge on the opening weekend, although he’s never been one to take being hooked off early well.
Klopp is banking on him to help fire Liverpool back into Europe’s elite. The manager added Salah to the club’s leadership group last month because he views him as such an inspirational figure, especially for the younger players.
The Saudis aren’t going anywhere. They will keep coming back for Salah. Next summer a deal might just make sense for all parties, but selling him now is unthinkable.