On the first part of the series Mohammed Salah: The Rise of the Pharaoh, we explored the early years and first contact with professional football of Salah in his natal Egypt. A new chapter began when Basel put the spot on him and Mo signed a four-year contract starting from 15 June 2012. The rising star was now on European soil; the chance was given but, as history teach us, sometimes failure is needed to achieve greatness. Mo had discrete seasons, even disappointing ones, but he persevered, and the rest is history. In this part, we’ll explore his nomadic journey through England and Italy prior to his arrival to Liverpool. We hope you enjoy it!
The first steps in Europe
The first season that Salah played at Switzerland, he contributed to Basel’s title for the Swiss Super League. He didn’t have a spectacular start, but he was part of a prolific talent development system at Basel under the club’s sporting director, Georg Heitz, and president, Bernhard Heusler, which launched the careers of Xherdan Shaqiri, now at Bayern Munich, and the one of the Croat Ivan Rakitic.
Chelsea FC had the spot on him, and on the 23 of January 2014, the British team announced that a deal had been agreed with Basel to bring Salah to London for a fee reported to be of £11 million. On 26 January 2014, Chelsea announced they had completed the signing of Salah, making him the first Egyptian to sign for the Blues. The promising star had a rather disappointing debut with Chelsea and was rapidly delegated to the bench.
Salah arrived at Chelsea at the young age of 21, where he didn’t match the expectations.
Salah had just 530 minutes of league action over six starts and seven appearances as a substitute in more than a year at Stamford Bridge after his move from Basel. It was consequently, an unfulfilling period before he left on loan for Fiorentina in February 2015. Salah was labelled a Premier League failure, but further analysis suggest that he may have fought against a tactical peculiarity in Chelsea. The list of those who did not excel in the position Salah had is an astonishing one. “The right wing was a tough one for Chelsea. Juan Cuadrado played there. Andre Schurrle played there. You had Kevin de Bruyne trying to play there. You had Marko Marin trying to play there and you had Mo Salah trying to play there,” former Chelsea winger Pat Nevin told BBC Sport.
Mohammed Salah went to Fiorentina as part of a transfer deal which contemplated the move of Juan Cuadrado to Chelsea. The Egyptian doesn’t forget, so he chose the number 74 shirt in honor of the victims of the Port Said Stadium riot. Six days after his arrival, he made his debut coming off the bench in the 65th minute Atalanta at the Stadio Artemio Franchi.
Salah posing with his ’74’ shirt at the signing with ACF Fiorentina.
Salah took off during his time in Florence. He started finding the net, was incredibly fast on the side of the pitch and began to feel confident being a winger. After fans started getting excited about the future of the club with Salah as the winger, Fiorentina tried to make his loan permanent. Salah refused the deal, as he had other ideas. AS Roma became his new team.
On 6 August 2015, Salah joined Roma on a season-long loan for €5 million with the option to make the deal permanent. He made his debut on 22 August 2015 against Hellas Verona and scored his first goal of the season against Sassuolo on 20 September 2015. Salah began to truly gain confidence playing side-to-side with Francesco Totti, Radja Nainggolan, Alessandro Florenzi and Miralem Pjanic.
Pace, power and an eye for goal were all abilities that he further developed with the Romans. Across the season he proved he could be just as devastating from long range (his first ever goal for the club was a volley) as in one-on-one situations (like his last goal of the season, against Milan). At the end of the season, Salah was named Player of the Season, finishing as the club’s top goalscorer with 15 goals in all competitions (14 in Serie A) and six assists.
The gifted Egyptian was reborn. After his disappointing season in Chelsea, he found the confidence in Italy to show his power and abilities. Liverpool had catch an eye on him, and negotiations were starting to occur. Why did the Pharaoh choose to return to England? Didn’t he fear that what happen at Chelsea could repeat?
Wait for the next chapter of the series Mohammed Salah: The Rise of the Pharaoh next week!