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How Mo Salah Became the New King of Football


How Mo Salah Became the New King of Football

To Salah, it’s about more than the money. It’s about recognition. “The thing is when you ask for something and they show you they can give you something,” he says, they should, “because they appreciate what you did for the club. I’ve been here for my fifth year now. I know the club very well. I love the fans. The fans love me. But with the administration, they have [been] told the situation. It’s in their hands.”

If Liverpool is unwilling to match his wage demands—entirely possible, given FSG’s reluctance to pay superstar salaries both at Liverpool and at the Red Sox—there are few clubs in world soccer who could. Barcelona is notoriously broke. Real Madrid seemingly has its sights on France striker Kylian Mbappé. There’s Paris Saint-Germain, with its limitless Qatari-backed financing, but otherwise the only real contenders are the two Manchester clubs or Chelsea, and a move to any one of them would torch Salah’s status as a Liverpool legend. (I will confess here that I have been a Liverpool fan for 20 years. Yes, I asked him to stay. No, it didn’t help.)

Salah knows his own worth, and that his next deal may be his last chance to make big money. There is also brand Salah to consider: He has sponsorship deals with Adidas, Oppo, Uber, and Pepsi, each paying handsomely for his image. (MBC, the Arabic TV channel, reportedly paid Salah $650,000 to interview him that day at the town hall.)

“I want to be the best player in the world. But I will have a good life even if I don’t win the Ballon d’Or. Sometimes I feel it’s just politics.”

He is 29 now. Conventional wisdom states that soccer players peak at around 30, although recent advances in sports science are changing that: Zlatan Ibrahimovic, for example, is still scoring for AC Milan at 40. “It’s not just Zlatan,” Salah says. “[Cristiano] Ronaldo is 36, [Karim] Benzema, 34. All the top players at the moment, [Robert] Lewandowski, Messi, all of them are 34, 35.” At his house, Salah has built his own recovery suite, including a cryotherapy bath and hyperbaric chamber—things you’d normally find only at a cutting-edge training facility or…

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