Contrast between Luis Suarez and Mohamed Salah contract talks proves Liverpool's giant strides forward

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·5-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Contrast between Luis Suarez and Mohamed Salah contract talks proves Liverpool's giant strides forward - ACTION IMAGES VIA REUTERS
Contrast between Luis Suarez and Mohamed Salah contract talks proves Liverpool's giant strides forward - ACTION IMAGES VIA REUTERS

One can imagine Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah and Atletico Madrid’s Luis Suarez exchanging shirts at the Wanda Metropolitano on Tuesday evening. While he has the chance, Salah may be tempted to seek tips on how to negotiate a record-breaking Anfield deal.

Suarez knows what it means to be the highest paid Liverpool player in history, his remuneration during three world-class seasons on Merseyside a consolation for the scant on-field reward of a League Cup.

Salah is a Premier League and Champions League winner, currently scaling new heights amid a contract impasse which suggests he still feels undervalued by club owner Fenway Sports Group.

The contrast is bound in the circumstances in which Suarez and Salah became Anfield heroes.

When Suarez left Liverpool for Barcelona in 2014, his farewell letter was informative. “This club did all they could to get me to stay, ” read the striker’s statement.

That message was reasserted by then-manager Brendan Rodgers. “The club have done all they can over a sustained period of time to try to keep Luis at Liverpool,” said Rodgers. “It is with great reluctance and following lengthy discussions we have eventually agreed to his wishes to move to Spain.”

This was true. In the aftermath of Suarez’s failed attempt to leave for Arsenal a year earlier - and despite his high-profile indiscretions - Liverpool awarded the Uruguayan a five-year deal worth £200,000 a week. No Liverpool player had ever been paid anywhere near so much, and it would be several years before another matched it.

Fast forward to 2021 and there are queries as to why Liverpool are not making a similar financial statement with Salah - arguably the world’s best player at this moment - to ensure he stays beyond the end of next season.

Where Suarez was castigated in some quarters for having the audacity to leave Liverpool, Salah may soon find himself questioned for wanting to re-sign on terms understood to be in the region of £400,000 a week.

Mohamed Salah scored another spellbinding goal against Watford at the weekend - REUTERS
Mohamed Salah scored another spellbinding goal against Watford at the weekend - REUTERS

It’s all a question of timing. Bizarrely, it can be argued Liverpool’s squad weaknesses in 2013 made the Suarez contract a no-brainer, while their strength in depth now makes it tougher to ‘give Salah whatever he wants’.

Eight years ago, Suarez looked around the dressing room and was singularly unimpressed beyond his veteran captain Steven Gerrard and the emerging Philippe Coutinho. FSG could afford to give him a massive salary because few others in the squad were commanding anywhere as much.

At that time, the club’s wage bill was £119 million and skipper Gerrard was the only other Liverpool player earning in excess of £100,000 a week. Suarez was now Liverpool’s greatest asset, and the club needed him more than he needed Liverpool. After 82 goals in 133 games, the club prayed he would continue to drag a limited squad towards title challenges. He was so good he probably would have done it.

Certainly, it is hard to envisage Rodgers’ reign would have deteriorated so rapidly in the immediate aftermath of Suarez’s sale, when Liverpool’s late scramble for a replacement led them to Mario Balotelli. Had Suarez committed, the path leading the club to Klopp 15 months later may not have been so clear.

For Salah, a contract renewal is required in a thrilling era in which he is currently the shining light, scoring a mindblowing 135 goals in 214 games as part of a line-up with many world class team-mates. In their last accounts, Liverpool’s wage bill had spiraled to £325 million, and since then more lucrative contracts have been signed.

The club, steadfast in its determination to live within its means, was already edging close to Uefa's recommendation of ensuring wages do not exceed 70 per cent of revenue.

For all Salah’s extraordinary feats, he must decide if he is prepared to accept the financial reality and earn less than he would in Paris and Manchester, albeit still a monumental amount, to keep achieving so much.

Amid the inevitable picking of sides about who is right or wrong, or what equates to reasonable market value when Salah is engaging in a one-man goal of the season competition, the stalemate is a product of the much-changed Anfield reality in which the salary pot is spread across a more talented pool than when Suarez was the Kop's king.

Luis Suarez joined Atletico Madrid from Barcelona after leaving Liverpool - GETTY IMAGES
Luis Suarez joined Atletico Madrid from Barcelona after leaving Liverpool - GETTY IMAGES

If Salah was doing what he is now in the Liverpool team of 2010-13, his every wish would have been granted to keep him away from the prying eyes of Barcelona, but Premier League and Champions League success would have been elusive in a team in which Ally Cissokho, Mamadou Sakho and Victor Moses regularly featured.

Had Suarez joined Liverpool in 2017, record pay rises would have been tougher to negotiate, but his general mood would have been better alongside Sadio Mane, Virgil van Dijk, Alisson Becker and Trent Alexander-Arnold.

For anyone blessed to have witnessed Suarez and Salah in their prime, there is nothing to separate them in terms of jaw-dropping moments. At Liverpool, the Egyptian's broad contribution has gone way beyond the South American's.

Like Suarez, every Salah appearance seems a guarantee of a goal and, crucially, Salah has missed only seven games since 2017.

Where Suarez was the ultimate high-maintenance footballer - serving a couple of high-profile suspensions - Salah has only ever been booked five times during his Premier League career.

As they face off on Tuesday, Suarez will never be more than an emblem of what might have been had he remained at Liverpool - reflective of an era when Anfield was a stepping stone. Salah is the thrilling embodiment of what is and can continue to be.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting