Mohamed Salah could be handed major Liverpool responsibility to sweeten new deal

In this week's Blood Red column, Paul Gorst ponders a potential new role for Mohamed Salah

A firm fan favorite over the last five years, that such a trusted midfielder was allowed to walk off into the sunset as a free agent will rankle with many for some time.

Especially considering that the player himself was desperate to stay and Jurgen Klopp was so keen to retain his services.

This is a not a player whose best days are behind him and the next move is downwards.

No, Wijnaldum will only add more quality to a Champions League-challenging PSG squad that is already bursting with it.

Typically, Klopp struck a poetic tone in his final goodbye message to the Netherlands international on Thursday.

But the debate over why a player who featured 51 times last season was waved off with seemingly little opposition will rage on, for now.

Wijnaldum’s departure, however, will at least see opportunity knock for another member of the Liverpool squad.

Throughout much of the last three years, Wijnaldum has formed one quarter of Klopp’s on-field leadership committee.

Alongside skipper Jordan Henderson, vice-captain James Milner and Netherlands leader Virgil van Dijk, Wijnaldum is a key part of a four-man group that bridges the gap between players and management.

When the team took the decision to send a message in the wake of the George Floyd killing last year, it was the four captains who brought the idea to the rest of their colleagues before informing Klopp of their plan.

“The captains have always come together to make sure the players’ views are represented,” says one Anfield source of the group.

With Wijnaldum now out of the picture, however, Klopp will be tasked with finding another to take his place.

Trent Alexander-Arnold, with his boyhood connections and unashamed dream to one day skipper Liverpool, could be ready for the next big step in his Anfield development.

“Trent can be an unbelievable captain for the club, I really believe that, he is still young and has a lot to grow,” former Reds defender Jose Enrique told the ECHO this week.

So too could Alisson Becker, whose quiet and calm opinion carries weight inside the Anfield dressing room.

Scotland skipper Andy Robertson is another who commands the respect of the entire playing staff at the club.

But if Klopp is looking for a player who would most relish the opportunity to grow further into a Liverpool leader, he need look no further than Mohamed Salah.

To some, the captain’s armband is neither wanted nor needed; a prop of yesteryear’s football ideology.

To others, however, it empowers.

One only has to look at how current captain Henderson has blossomed on and off the pitch since assuming the mantle from the legendary Steven Gerrard in 2015.

Salah is someone who counts himself in that latter bracket; the responsibilities of the captain matter to him.

So much so that he wears it for his national side with abundant pride as the poster-boy for football in Egypt.

“Honestly, I was very disappointed,” Salah admitted after Alexander-Arnold was given the duty ahead of him for a Champions League dead-rubber in Midtjylland back in December.

“I was hoping to be the captain, but it’s a coach’s decision. I accept it.”

Paul Gorst is the ECHO’s new full-time LFC correspondent covering the Reds both home and away.

He’ll be across all the biggest stories both on and off the pitch and is a must follow for fans worldwide.

Klopp later confessed the oversight was his mistake, saying that as the longest-serving player on the pitch in Denmark that night, Divock Origi should in fact have led the side out.

“The rule here is, we have a players’ committee,” said Klopp. “Hendo wears the armband, and if he’s not playing then it’s Milly.

“If those two are not playing then it’s Virgil and if all three are not playing, it’s Gini. If they all cannot play, then it’s usually the player who is longest at the club.

“Somebody afterwards told me it would have been Divock Origi, but Div was on loan and stuff like that.

“That was my fault. I didn’t make it that complicated. It was just: ‘Trent is longest at the club, so he has the armband’.

“Of course, I spoke to Mo about it afterwards. When I realised it didn’t work out that well [for him], I clarified it, and then he spoke about it again in the interview, which is not a problem for me.

“Yes, he was disappointed, but I didn’t do it on purpose. I just did what I did, and if I made a mistake then it was that Divock Origi was not the captain that day.”

Given Salah’s surprise reaction to being overlooked for an otherwise meaningless Champions League fixture, it would not require a leap of faith to suggest he would be delighted to become one of Klopp’s quartet of captains.

At a time when the club are hoping to open contract talks for last season’s 31-goal top scorer, a promotion into the inner circle would be an additional gesture to show just how much he is valued at Anfield.


Arab Observer

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