Football is a funny old game. In our increasingly divided world spent in isolation with our mobile phones divided by economic glass barriers, football still tries to maintain the idealistic image of a factory worker cheering alongside a banker for ninety minutes.
The rampant commercialization of late-stage capitalism has spurned its beans and well frankly rather vehemently over this globally loved game as well. There is not simply no escaping from it.
Commercial interests in the game have coincided with rising ticket prices meaning many of the regular match-going faces are disappearing fast from the stands.
These are ugly sides behind the glamorous lights of the Premier League. There are no bicycle stands like it used to be alongside the grounds as the saying goes.
Scousers for their part are known and revered for their presence at Anfield. Liverpool, the giants of the English League still has maintained nine pounds cost for their ticket prices, the lowest pricing in the league, thanks largely to the repeated efforts of fan groups, mainly, Spirit of Shankly.
The Spirit of Shankly as a group has been much respected. They are known for their efforts in food banks for those in crisis. Players and the greatest of managers come and go, it is the fans who are in for the course of their lives.
In turn, it is the greatest of players who become the subjects of stories songs, and poems for generations for the fans who have no other option but to stay.
When Liverpool drew three all against Palace, all but sealing their fate, of being runners-up to Manchester City in 2013-14, their talisman at the time, Luis Suarez was hiding his teary face in his jersey.
The icon of the club, Steven Gerrard, was busy trying to push the camera away from such a hapless sight. As if he was trying to protect both the players and the fans from what had transpired.
Commentating at the game, Jon Champion proclaimed, “For Liverpool, it is the night when the dream died.” He wondered, so much of Liverpool is about the soul of the club, the fans, and the city, and even then will they have the desire to make their opponents hear their voices again?
Steven Gerrard left the following season, followed by Brendan Rodgers, newly arrived Jurgen Klopp talked at the press about fans leaving the stadium early, it is unlike Liverpool. Roberto Firmino and Coutinho were the new faces at the club and in came, a certain Mo Salah from Roma.
He had left the league following his disaster of a spell at Chelsea. He had almost joined Liverpool, but Ian Ayre’s unwillingness to meet his valuation at the time meant he went to Chelsea. What transpired was a nightmare for the Egyptian at the Bridge.
Rodgers and Klopp all had talked about upon joining their ideas of rejuvenation. If it is at all possible to repeat even a chapter of the illustrious history of the grand old club, they wondered. Liverpool, under Klopp, did more than that.
When newer generations arrive at the gates of Anfield they are bound to be haunted by stories of Mo Salah. How he was at the start dubbed as a Chelsea flop, blew the roof off Anfield with sixty goals and assists in his first season at the club.
Salah ran down the wing like an Egyptian king. Fans found joy again, for Scousers, it was as if someone had turned the wheel of the chariot back to the time when things were happy and profound.
Ian Rush, the club’s all-time greatest goal scorer was asked after Salah’s previous season if he feels threatened, Mo will be breaking his goal-scoring record. Rush smiled replying; he hoped the Egyptian stayed long enough to do so.
Owen’s departure to Real Madrid was not an anomaly, for decades players have left their joy of scoring for the home team at the Kop End for pastures new.
Salah’s phenomenal performance alongside his forward partners Sadio Mane and Bobby Firmino made it unconventional for players to leave the club at their prime. Trophies were there to be won, and they were having their right go in every race for silverware.
Liverpool’s quartet of Bobby Firmino in the middle with Salah and Mane on the wings is arguably the greatest forward line or definitely amongst the best the club ever had in its long history. Once dubbed a Chelsea flop, Salah scored a worldly at the Kop End, doing a Buddha pose in celebration. An iconic moment in the history of the Engish League let alone, Liverpool.
Fans were hoping in earnest there would be someone arriving through the door to fill the enormous hole left by Steven Gerrard, Salah did that and a lot more, certainly.
The year Liverpool finished at the helm of the league, Mo finished the season, with thirty-six goals and assists across all competitions. He, at the time of writing, is ten goals behind Owen in the all-time scoring charts with 140 goals. Surpassing Owen would mean, Mo would enter the top ten goal scorer list of the Premier League.
For Liverpool, Mo’s tally clocks up 187 goals across all competitions. He has just surpassed Gerrard moving to third in the all-time scorers list for the club, Sir Roger Hunt sits second with 260 goals with Ian Rush at the very top with 336 goals. Ian Rush played 649 times for the club while Mo played 307 games to notch up his tally, less than half the number.
It would be a grave injustice to view Salah’s contribution to the club only through the numbers. Even though, his numbers indicate what is suggestive of how rare it is to witness a player so magnificent in stature playing for the club for the fans in their lifetime.
Salah over time has become the figure of hope, he must score against arch-rivals Manchester United, in the dying minutes to secure the game. When he was brought in an utterly awful manner by Ramos, fans felt the despair of a lost European final and a man’s dream getting shattered. Mo became synonymous with the singing Kop.
He would make his inside runs leaving their defense in a spin, with their players falling on top of each other while Mo after leaving them in a twist would fire from his left foot into the top corner.
Mo Salah is simply the king of the Kop End with divine powers to pull off magic against their greatest players. All the players deserving of a statue be sure Mo Salah will be having his outside Anfield. Perhaps, his very celebration against Chelsea will be the theme.
Kids will learn and dream and watch old clips of who Mo Salah was, how much he meant to the club, and how much the club meant to be him. He will always be regarded in the same breath as some of the greatest to wear the Liverpool red.
Present seasons have been tough going for Liverpool, losing out on the top four. Salah was one of the first players to publicly apologize to the fans. Another showcase of the responsibility he carries for the team, all of this is happening at a time when the Saudi League is on an ever-expanding mission.
Football royalty, Cristiano Ronaldo went first and now as we know, even twenty-year-old Gabri Veiga has followed suit. It was thus a matter of time before a bid came for the gem of the Africa playing at Anfield. Saudi sees it as a homecoming. It is what is natural and what is supposed to be.
Salah’s popularity in the Arab world will envy the greatest of rock stars. As news broke out supporters of Al-Ittihad went to their game wearing masks of Mo. They want him there.
Klopp was asked about Liverpool’s position with the deal, Klopp was adamant, there are no deals in place, and if there was, Liverpool’s answer would be a no. It does look like however increasingly likely before Mo makes the journey across the ocean-shifting continents.
Players come and go they say, but the greatest players don’t. They stay in memories and dreams in times of glory and in times of utter distress. They are the ones whose stories give the rest of hope. He used to turn Bernardo Silva and touch the ground with his quick feet will probably be the narrative for generations.
It is perhaps rather annoying to wonder who will replace him when the inevitable time comes. In this world of social media, we are meant to always have an answer, but perhaps there are happenings in life with no plausible answers.
The passing of time is probably one in such regard. Surely at the time, Klopp was not looking at any replacements. He will be more aware than anyone else of the gaping hole that will be left once Mo departs.
There was a time when the Liverpool teams were getting considered as the greatest, they ever had. Comparisons were drawn with the teams of their greatest days. In each of the squads assembled of different eras, Mo Salah was among the first names.
A decade back, it would have been unthinkable given the structure of the club, Liverpool will win the league and the UEFA Champions League in a space of seasons. Salah’s departure to Saudi will herald the end of the lovely fever dream the Scousers had, thanks to the entire squad and a certain Egyptian.