Mohamed Salah has spoken of his pride at becoming only the third player in Liverpool’s history to score 40 goals in a season but said individual records and accolades are meaningless compared with winning the Champions League.
The Egypt international maintained his phenomenal strike-rate on Saturday when he scored his 30th Premier League goal of the campaign in the 3-0 home win against Bournemouth. Salah’s exquisite header beyond Asmir Begovic was also his 40th goal in all competitions – a figure previously achieved at Liverpool by only Roger Hunt (1961-62) and Ian Rush (1983-84 and 1986-87). No Liverpool player has reached the milestone faster than Salah, however, who has scored 40 goals in 45 games for Jürgen Klopp’s side.
Liverpool’s £36.9m summer signing from Roma is firmly on course to win the Golden Boot and player of the season awards but admits he would swap them all for victory in the Champions League.
Salah, who faces his former club in the semi-finals, said: “It means a lot. I try to score every game to help the team and to get the points. That is the most important thing for us, that we play as a team, as 11 players, and so each goal for me is to help the team. It is a great feeling, of course it is a great feeling, but in the end I am just happy to score and help the team. If I had a choice between the Champions League and the Golden Boot, then of course it would be the Champions League, no doubt the Champions League. To win the Champions League is huge for everyone. I don’t care about the rest.”
The Liverpool forward is five goals ahead of Tottenham’s Harry Kane in the race to be the Premier League’s leading scorer and, despite targeting the club’s sixth European Cup success, admits the individual honour is a motivation. “It is in my mind,” said Salah. “I cannot lie, it is in my mind. But you can see against Bournemouth that everyone in the team tries to pass the ball to me to help me. I am happy to have this feeling, you feel all the team want to support you and want to help you score goals. I am also sure that Tottenham’s players try to help Harry Kane and also Manchester City’s try to help Sergio Agüero. It’s like that but in the end we play as a team.”
Salah tweeted: “Wooooooow really?” after Kane was awarded a goal against Stoke by the Premier League goals accreditation panel but declined to be drawn further into the controversy. “I don’t want to say anything about that!” he said with a laugh. “In the end they said it’s his goal so it’s finished for me. Now we still have four games and they have five or six games so I have to think about my games and we will see. I think the way we play gives us all more chances to score. You can see with Bobby Firmino, he has scored a lot of goals this season. It’s also a different season for him. The way we play helps us to be in front of the goal all the time.”
Firmino struck his 25th goal of the season in all competitions to seal a comfortable defeat of Eddie Howe’s team. Bournemouth had fallen behind to an early Sadio Mané goal but settled into the game, with Nathan Aké defending well against Salah, before the Egyptian peeled away from his marker to convert a cross from the excellent Trent Alexander-Arnold. “It was very difficult,” Aké said. “In a split second he [Salah] is gone. If there is no pressure on the ball, then he can make incredible movements in behind you, so it’s really, really difficult.”
Virgil van Dijk jokingly called Salah “lucky” as Liverpool’s leading marksman discussed his 40-goal milestone after the game. The 25-year-old admitted he is now targeting Rush’s all-time Liverpool record of 47 goals in a season.
Salah added: “It is very close, just seven goals. But let’s see! I don’t know how many games there is to go but we have the Premier League and semi-finals of the Champions League to play. I will try my best to score again and help the team.”