MO SALAH will link up with his international teammates ahead of Egypt’s World Cup qualifying double-header against Angola and Gabon, with most football watchers ready to hand him a raft of player of the season prizes with just a quarter of the campaign gone.
The 29-year-old is in the form of his life, with many journalists agreeing with what all Liverpool fans know: the Egyptian King is the best player on the planet at present.
While the Reds’ lack of silverware last season looks like costing him the chance of a Ballon d’Or – the winner will be announced at the end of the month – he appears to be a shoe-in for both the PFA Player of the Year and the football writers’ prize.
The fact that the season is only just getting going matters little, the Premier League’s current top scorer setting about creating his very own goal of the season competition. The strikes against Manchester City and Watford occupy the top two places in most people’s list of best Premier League goals, but don’t rule him out even bettering those before the season ends.
The bookmakers appear to agree with the Liverpool fans, and he is odds on to lift the PFA prize – as short as 8/11 in some quarters; bet £11 to win £8 if he’s voted player of the season. Second favourite is Ronaldo at 7/1, with Salah’s club captain Virgil van Dijk available at 33/1 with UK offers.
His goals have helped fire Liverpool towards the top of the Premier League table, and to the knock-out stages of the Champions League with two games to spare. The only negative about their star forward at present is his impending absence for at least a month of the season when he represents Egypt in the delayed Africa Cup of Nations early in the new year.
With club colleagues Sadio Mane (Senegal) and Naby Keita (Guinea) also likely to miss a chunk of the campaign for the tournament being held in Cameroon, Jurgen Klopp will hope to have his side in pole position in the Premier League by the end of the year. A cushion at the top of the table will come in very handy to counteract any disruption caused by the absence of three of his players.
It is likely Salah will be the biggest loss, and his current form makes it a surprise to many Reds fans that he is not seen as one of top two chasing the Ballon d’Or – it should come as an even bigger surprise to discover that Lionel Messi is second favourite to win the race at 5/4 after a less than successful start to life at his new club, Paris Saint Germain.
Salah’s early-season form has seen his odds slashed for the Ballon d’Or from 33s into 9/1, but Robert Lewandowski is now odds on to pick up the award (4/7), leapfrogging Messi in the betting.
The Ballon d’Or is the most prestigious individual award in world football, and Lewandowski’s record last season of 41 goals in 34 league matches helped Bayern Munich to another Bundesliga title, and in the process broke Gerd Muller’s single-season scoring record in the German top flight.
But if Salah continues showing the form he has already this season, then next year’s Ballon d’Or is as good as his.