Liverpool’s Mo Salah is one of the best players in the world at the moment. Did his rise to the top start when Chelsea decided he wasn’t good enough for them?
Hi, I’m Chloe and this is the Playmaker.
One story every day to make sense of the world of football.
Today, how rejection can be the making of some footballers.
Salah with a chance, wonderful feet, brilliant play, here he goes Salah, oh what about that! Oh my word! That was sensational!BT Sport
At the weekend, Liverpool destroyed Watford 5-0 away from home. The Egyptian forward, Mo Salah, was instrumental in their superb performance.
He scored a wonderful goal after a hypnotic piece of skill in the Watford box.
Oh. My. Word. It’s a goal that you struggle to take in. You can’t believe your eyes, the feet were mesmerising, the finish was clinical. It’s a brilliant moment from Mo Salah.BT Sport
It was the sort of performance that led football fans and pundits to ask the inevitable question: is he the best player in world football right now?
His boss Jurgen Klopp was in no doubt.
“Where does Mo Salah stand in, where does he rate in the world rankings right now?”
“Top. I mean who is, come on we all see it. Who is better at the moment than him? That’s clear and always in these kind of things I know there is a big discussion about these kind of things but we don’t have to talk about how and what Messi and Ronaldo did for world football and how long they were really dominant but in the moment I think it’s clear that there’s nobody better than him.”BT Sport
And yet the Mo Salah story could have been so different.
That’s because arguably, his first brush with English football was a failure.
Salah started in the top flight with Chelsea – one of Liverpool’s rivals at the top of the Premier League. He was on their books in 2016 but they sold him to Roma that summer for what would now be seen as a snip: 15 million Euros.
The rejection hit him hard. He says it was always on his mind to return to the Premier League to prove his critics wrong. And he has done just that.
So the question is, how does rejection work for some players?
Chelsea have bought and sold players in huge volumes in recent years. It’s part of the way they operate.
And if Salah had hopes that he’d be a first team regular after joining Chelsea, they were soon dashed.
He made ten Premier League appearances in his first six months under Jose Mourinho – and just three in the first half of the following season.
Mourinho publicly criticised Salah and just three months later, he was sent on loan to Fiorentina.
That season Chelsea let another 48 players leave the club through loans, sales and free transfers.
He was far from alone in his rejection but even so, he needed to start over. And that’s just what he did. In Italy, he exploded onto the scene.
Salah scored on his first start for Fiorentina, and his goals in Europe helped his new side to the Europa League semi-final.
In a Coppa Italia match versus Juventus, he cut through their normally resolute defence like a knife through butter. The newspapers in Italy went into overdrive.
Next, he joined Roma, first on loan, and then on a permanent basis. And the rejection had simply spurred him on to improve.
To be honest, I said to myself I need to change everything. I need to change the culture, I need to change the football, so that’s the time to go outside England. It’s hard work, I always try to improve, but when I came here, I’d also had two great seasons in Rome. Everyone told me no, don’t change, the Premier League is difficult for you.BT Sport
Kevin De Bruyne is also regarded as one of the best players in the world. He has found great success at Manchester City after being let go by Chelsea.
Kevin De Brunye with his first offer and what an offer it is! A goal already! De Bruyne did what he does and Silva tucked it away.Sky Sports
And Chelsea have just paid almost one hundred million pounds to buy Romelu Lukaku back after selling him for 28 million pounds in 2014. It didn’t take him long to find the back of the net on his second debut for the club…
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=of-6Br69srs Sky Sports [0:14-0:26]
No flag. James to put it on a plate for Lukaku! He scores his first Chelsea goal, he couldn’t miss it. And it’s taken less than 15 minutes.Sky Sports
Not everyone reacts so well to being made surplus to requirements though.
Brazilian Lucas Piazon joined Chelsea after they fought off competition from some of the world’s top clubs to sign him before his eighteenth birthday.
He said he’d always dreamed of playing for them.
But then, Chelsea sent him out on seven consecutive loans in six different countries during his time there.
And after being one of football’s hottest young prospects, he has now signed permanently for Braga in the Portuguese League. His trajectory hasn’t matched Salah’s.
A footballer’s success depends on many things, not least having a sympathetic manager who knows how to build a team from many talents.
By the way, Chelsea are a point ahead at the top of the Premier League right now. Just think how many more points they’d have if they’d have kept Mo Salah and Kevin De Bruyne?
Today’s story was written by Chloe Beresford and produced by Matt Russell.