Unknown African Talents - Mohamed Salah
By Surya Solanki
Club: FC Basel
Age: 20 (June 15, 1992)
Market Value: £3.5million (as per current transfer market)
Dubbed as the “Egyptian Messi”, Mohamed Salah comes across as one of the brightest young footballing prospects produced by the African continent.
Ed Dove, a leading African pundit has a similar opinion about the lad.
“Salah is a very special talent - he is particularly revered in Egypt, where, after a time of intense turmoil, and the end of a cycle for the all-conquering national side of the last decade, he is the bright young thing, and the next Egyptian superstar,” said Dove in an interview with Football.com
Egypt have been facing a football turmoil over the past ten months, when fans attacked a visiting team’s supporters in the city of Port Said, killing more than 75 people in what was billed as arguably the worst cases of sports violence the mankind has ever witnessed.
However, Mohamed Salah has given the Pharaohs a ray of light and helped them shrug off and forget the demons of the scandals, riots and controversies that have riddled the ‘beautiful game’ in the historic nation.
Blessed with a lethal left-foot, blazing pace and phenomenal dribbling finesse, Salah made a name for himself at his boyhood and subsequently first professional club, Arab Contractors SC, scoring 11 times and producing three assists in 38 appearances during his stay at the Cairo-based domestic team.
The 20-year-old is known for his ability to ‘cut inside’ and create havoc in the final third with beautiful skills and trickery and his versatility is also a unique trait as Salah can play all along the attacking line.
“Mohamed Salah is a rising Egyptian talent and one of the quickest forwards Egypt has ever witnessed. He’s a savvy footballer with a natural flair for both scoring and setting up goals.“
Salah’s enthralling displays for his club and the senior and youth nation teams caught the eyes of the scouts at FC Basel and it was only a matter of time before the breakthrough team of the yesteryear Champions League handed the youngster a lucrative four-year deal.
The small set of people at the Swiss club who recognized Salah’s abundant potential saw him as a natural heir to Xherdan Shaqiri, who had agreed to ply trades at German powerhouse Bayern Munich from the current season.
Salah has certainly lived up to the expectations of his club officials, wasting no time in settling in at FC Basel by netting in three times and producing a couple of assists for his new colleagues at the St. Jakob-Park.
Like his predecessor, Salah has a tendency to directly run at the players, torment them with his exquisite dribbles and consequently often compelling them to commit haste and untimed fouls
If he continues to perform at the same level he is at the current moment, Salah has a gleaming future ahead of him and it could be only a matter of time before he is on his way to a bigger club, although for current growth and development, the Swiss league appears to be the best ‘learning ground’ for the attacker.
“With regards to the future, the interest from big clubs is justified, as there is a genuine talent there - however, Salah is raw, the mental side of his game, the decision making and the awareness, can and will improve, before he can take a major step up. I think for now, the quiet environs of the Swiss league ought to be a decent learning ground for him,” points out Dove.
Salah burst onto the European radar with whirling performances against the likes of Brazil and Belarus at the 2012 London Games.
“Despite entering the tournament with a shoulder injury, he demonstrated, in flashes, what he is capable of: a sweet finish late on against Brazil, an equaliser against New Zealand, and the opener against Belarus suggests that this could well be a man we shall be watching right up to the toppermost echelons of the sport.
“Ultimately, the Olympics was the high point of the last 18 months for Egypt - after some intense lows, they performed really quite well, and Salah proved himself to be a really bright prospect on a bigger stage. He also made his Champions League debut for Basle soon after the tournament, and performed well even though the side didn't qualify for the group stage,” Dove adds.
The high point of Salah’s enigmatic London campaign was perhaps his matchup against the Brazilian Marcelo in the second tie of Group C.
His quick and nimble feet, combined with his excellent technique on the ball and the characteristic of getting behind the defensive line tormented the Real Madrid full-back, indicating the fact that the football fanatics could be witnessing the early years of the most talented Egyptian born-and-bred player to have ever graced the pitch.
It is always hard to find negatives in prodigies like Mohamed Salah, however, the latter does possess some ingredients that often invite moderate criticism from the football pundits.
Although the 15-times capped national team star has flourished in the ‘easy’ Egyptian league and has been a massive revelation since switching allegiance to the red and blue colours of Basel, Salah’s work ethics and weak physique have been often been subject of much curiosity.
The player might be unable to meet the rigorous demands of the ‘elite’ European leagues, particularly the Premier League, as the viciously inappropriate tackles committed by the robust players in these countries could easily injure the former Al Mokawloon Al Arab man.
Moreover, like most wingers, Salah is part of the infamous ‘ball-hog breed’, consisting of players who refuse to play the simple ball to their teammates and instead, hog onto it for as long as possible, restricting the overall attacking options of the team.
Nonetheless, as aforementioned, Salah has years of development ahead and at a tender age of 20, the attacker is bound to showcase exponential growth that could help him overcome his negatives and capitalize on his vast array of potential.