The perfect host, Mohamed Salah (Egypt, 1992) invites us to his private box at Anfield, with his family and friends, to see his exhibition against Tottenham (a double despite the draw).
His goals record (21) has allowed him to compete with Harry Kane (22) in the Premier League, but also for the Golden Shoe, with Cavani (21) and Messi (20).
“I’m not surprised,” he says, entirely convinced of his football pedigree, before sitting down and posing for photos and answering MARCA’s long list of questions.
Are you in the best moment of your career?
“I think so far.”
Why do you think it has happened now?
“After arriving here the first time [Chelsea] was always in my head, and after playing in Rome, coming back here to England was great beacuse I love the Premier League. Last year I had some good performances for Roma, but I arrived as a forward and started playing out wide. This year I’m scoring more goals. In any case I want to help the team to win titles or be in a good position in the league.”
Are you surprised to have scored so many goals?
“I’ve always scored goals wherever I’ve played, but this year I’m doing so a lot more… it’s not a surprise for me.”
How important is your coach Jurgen Klopp?
“I spoke with him before coming to Liverpool. He helped me to adapt to the group very quickly, and also on the pitch. We are very happy together.”
You’re left footed, so do you feel comfortable playing on the right side?
“I feel very comfortable when I play on the right, I can also play 10, or as a forward … But I prefer a little more on the right.”
Why did you not do so well with Chelsea?
“I didn’t do well because I didn’t play many games. I was there for one year, but I only played during the first six months. After that, I hardly participated. I went to Fiorentina, scored goals, then in Rome I played very well and returned to England. But it’s not a matter of succeeding or not…”
Why did you choose Liverpool?
“It’s a great club, we have fantastic players, a good team, an incredible team. I wanted to go back to England and when I had the opportunity to come to Liverpool I was very happy. And I am now.”
Besides Liverpool, were other teams interested in you?
“Yes, there were other teams interested, but I honestly prefer not to name them. I decided to come here and I think it was a good choice.”
What are your dreams?
“Now I want to be in a good position in the Premier League and help my international team to pass the first phase in the World Cup in Russia. Those are my goals for now, then we’ll see.”
Do you think you can become the Premier League’s top scorer? You’re fighting with Harry Kane…
“He is a great player, in the last two years he has already been the top scorer. Kane plays as a No.9 and has more chances to score goals than me. In my mind I want to win it, but we will see what happens.”
Do you miss Coutinho a lot?
“I miss him anyway! He was my friend, a very nice guy. I wish him all the best in Barcelona because he is an incredible player, with a lot of quality. As a person he’s very calm. I’m proud to have played by his side.”
You’ve just been chosen as the best African player. Quite an honour, I imagine?
“It was one of my dreams when I was a child, so I’m very proud. I always said many times that I wanted to win this prize. I have a very special feeling for having achieved it.”
Do you want to win the Ballon d’Or?
“In football you never know… if you get it you have reached the top. But I have already commented my goals for this season.”
How will you face the Champions League match against Porto?
“For us as a club and as a team it is very important to get through. We need to qualify.”
Nine years ago that Liverpool didn’t reach the quarterfinals… Is there special pressure in the city?
“There is no extra pressure because for us every game is important; Premier League, cups, Champions League… of course this competition is something different for the club and the fans but the team tries in every match to give 100 percent. It will be an important game against a great team, and we will have to give more than them to win.”
Do you think that Liverpool can win the Champions League?
“I have already commented that in football anything can happen… we will try to work hard in each match and win it … I am very excited about the next games.”
How do you feel about playing in Europe coming from Egypt?
“It isn’t easy for an Egyptian to reach Europe and play at a top level, with so much pressure. I try to take care of myself and work hard to be at the highest level all the time. I am in a good position and I try to follow my path, the one I have always wanted. I would say to people who notice me that it’s not easy, but if you want something enough, you can get it.”
How was your childhood in your town, Nagrig? Were you a good student?
“I was a normal child. I was on the street all day, I loved football, that’s what I always had in my head. Every step I took, the dreams were getting bigger. But basically I played with my friends in the street. I was not a good student. [laughs] Nagrif are my people, you know? Every time I have a chance I go there. I always feel happy when I return. That’s where I come from and I’m not going to forget that.”
When did you realise you could be a professional footballer?
“I was a boy when I played at my club in Egypt, The Arab Contractors. When I was 16 years old, my coach took me to the first team, and that’s when I started to really dream about being a professional. It was very early because I was only 16 years old and I was very young, but at that moment I told myself it was my chance and I didn’t want to lose it. From that moment I started working very hard to be a good player.”
How was the jump from Egypt to Europe?
“I said it wasn’t easy. When you come from Egypt to Europe, you don’t speak the language, your family is in Egypt and travelling to see them is difficult, but what was clear from the beginning was that I didn’t want to come back except as a top player… or retired [laughs]. I knew I didn’t have the option to return. I didn’t see myself playing a couple of months in Europe and having to go back. That didn’t cross my mind.”
I read that your idols were Ronaldo, Zidane and Totti. Zidane has also praised you publicly… Why them?
“Because they were different, each one had his qualities. To anyone you ask, I would say wow! Awesome! Great players, you could feel the magic in every game. I was also able to play with Totti, which was a dream. When I was a child he was my idol so playing by his side was huge. I learned a lot from him. I am very proud to play with one of my idols. It makes me really happy that any of them talk about me.”
Do you still watch the Spanish League?
“Yes, I follow it, I see some games. Not always, because sometimes they coincide with Liverpool fixtures, of course. It’s a good league, has top teams, and the way they play is very attractive.”
Would you like to play there? You’ve already done so in Italy and England…
“At the moment I am here. I want to concentrate on my team and finish the season very well.”
Your coach Hector Cuper recently stated that Madrid were interested in you and that the president also said that Real would make an offer. Does the idea appeal to you?
“Why do you think they say these things? I don’t have much to say about that. If I have to say something, I’ll say I’m happy at Liverpool.”